natural language translation (was Re: How factual are second-hand translations?)

From: Dossy (
Date: Wed Jan 09 2002 - 07:14:06 MST

On 2002.01.08, Spike Jones <> wrote:
> Suppose we had a list of special cases that the software
> would look for in common speech, then translate as special
> cases. A few examples I can think of would be
> "...six of one, half dozen of the other" = identical.
> "...wassup?" = hello
> "...have a nice day" = goodbye, get outta my face, etc.
> Computers are now fast enough to tear thru a jillion of these
> kinds of special phrases that might trip up the literal translators.

Also, consider the traditional problem of translating idioms.
Things like "kick the bucket" ... a literal translation of

"Last night, poor John kicked the bucket."

might yield something about a poor man named John kicking
a pail the previous night.

Things like Ebonics and other dialects of language show us
exactly how impossible natural language translation is, unless
we build a generic "system" that can learn languages. There's
no value in building a "database" of translations because it'll
never be able to keep up with the languages (unless they're dead
and no longer spoken or changing).

The big win in translation will be semantic translators, ones
that derive the meaning of a passage (not just a word or sentence,
but whole phrases at a time within the context of a larger passage)
and then translate it into the equivalent *meaning* in the target
language following all the rules and structure of the target

-- Dossy

Dossy Shiobara                       mail: 
Panoptic Computer Network             web: 
  "He realized the fastest way to change is to laugh at your own
    folly -- then you can let go and quickly move on." (p. 70)

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