ALTA Logo Proceedings of ALTSS/ALTW, Melbourne, December 2003

Machine Translation

Harold Somers, UMIST, UK


1. Introduction to MT
This first session will introduce the topic of MT by looking first at its history, then at some of the basic problems (and solutions), focusing on linguistic aspects of translation and the use of computers to address them. We will consider the use of fully automatic MT for assimilation purposes (translating into the user's language), compared to controlled language and/or computer-based aids for translators for dissemination (translating into a foreign language). SPoken-language MT will also be briefly mentioned.

2. Linguistic aspects of MT
In this session we will look more closely at the kinds of linguistic problems that MT has to face and will discuss ways in which MT programs work around these problems. We will distinguish monolingual problems of morphology, lexical ambiguity, syntactic ambiguity, pragmatic aspects from bilingual problems of language contrast: lexical mismatches, structural divergence, typological differences.

3. Evaluation of MT
Evaluation of MT software is important to developers and users alike. In this session we will look at the many different features of MT that can be evaluated, and at suitable methods for conducting an evaluation.

4. Empirical approaches to MT
The latest research on MT is the so-called "empiricist" approach, relying on large amounts of textual data from which linguistic "knowledge" is extracted and automatically used to produce translations on the basis of analogy. The two main variants of this approach (statistics-based and example-based MT) are explained and exemplified.


Harold Somers is Professor of Language Engineering at UMIST (Manchester). With over 25 years' experience in the field both as a researcher and educator, he is editor of one of the field's premier journals (Machine Translation), and has written extensively on the subject. His latest publication "Computers and Translation" (John Benjamins, 2003) promises to become an influential and useful addition to the literature. []


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