Proceedings of Machine Translation Summit VI: Plenaries
The United States Government has filled a key role in the development and application of Machine Translation technology for over four decades. A recent study by the White House Office of Science and Technology has reaffirmed the importance of this role. Two key world events, the emergence of Internet technology and the collapse of the former Soviet Union, have stimulated rapid changes in the status of Machine Translation requirements and applications. A continuing need for Machine Translation systems in the United States military along with the application of Machine Translation systems on key United States Government networks has made Machine Translation systems available to tens of thousands of users. Advances in automating textual information processes and in testing and evaluation of the technology has further stimulated Machine Translation development and applications. Although budget reductions will impact this continuing growth, renewed cooperation will ameliorate some of the impact and the emerging widespread use of Machine Translation could reverse the budget trends. Age old arguments between linguists and Machine Translation advocates seem to be giving way to recognition of mutual dependence and the potential for Win/Win outcomes. The past five years have witnessed an accelerated exposure and application of Machine Translation technology in the United States Government unequaled in its 40 year history. However, with some budgetary adjustments, the next five years could be truly phenomenal. Advocates for Machine Translation technology and its applications are poised to meet the 21st Century and the Information Age with renewed vigor and practical applications which promise to end the debate over Machine Translation's viability forever.
Although the first ideas for mechanical translation were made in the seventeenth century, it was not until this century that means became available for realization with the appearance of the electronic computer in the mid 1940s. Fifty years ago, in March 1947 Warren Weaver wrote to Norbert Wiener and met Andrew Booth, mentioning to both the use of computers for translation. The possibilities were investigated during the next seven years, until in January 1954 the first prototype program was demonstrated. This article is a brief chronicle of these early years of mechanizing translation processes.
In this paper is described a general framework of a next generation machine translation system which translates a text not sentence by sentence but by considering inter-sentential discourse. The method is a step closer to human translation than the present-day machine translation systems. Particularly important are a detailed discourse analysis and a flexible text generation by using information obtained from the discourse analysis.
This paper aims to survey the current state of research, development and use of Machine Translation (MT). Under ‘research’ the role of linguistics is discussed, and contrasted with research in ‘analogy- based’ MT. The range of languages covered by MT systems is discussed, and the lack of development for minority languages noted. The new research area of spoken language translation (SLT) is reviewed, with some major differences between SLT and text MT described. Under ‘use and users’ we discuss tools for users: Translation Memory, bilingual concordances and software to help checking for mistranslations. The use of MT on the World Wide Web is also discussed, regarding pre- and post-editing, the impact of ‘controlled language’ is reviewed, and finally a proposal is made that MT users can revise the input text in the light of errors that the system makes, thus ‘post-editing the source text’.
MT started out as a ‘technology push’: more than 50 years ago, researchers had the bright idea of doing translation with the use of the newly developed computers. MT remained in the technology push area for many years. However, in the nineties we are seeing the ‘market pull’ beginning to play a role and there are good reasons to believe that this trend will continue. MT is going where the market and the users wants it to go, and MT will be prospering in the future. MT will be available electronically over the network, and MT will be available in environments which also offer a variety of other tools for translation, as well as tools for other types of information management. Also in research and in development of new technologies, MT will further develop, e.g. along the lines of knowledge-based MT, advanced integration of different analysis techniques (rule-based, statistics-based, etc.), integration with speech etc.