translation

Machine translation is IP theft, if you really think about it

“What mostly annoys human translators isn’t the arrogance of machines but their appropriation of the work of forgotten or anonymous humans,” a New York Times article writes.

I’ve never thought of it this way, but it’s entirely true. Machine translation, as bad as it is, only works because the scientists have stolen the work of countless translators and refuse to credit them as co-creators of the knowledge their machines depend on.

Curious elevator button

While I was getting out of the Lassonde building I took a closer look at the elevator buttons and saw this:

Photograph of elevator buttons found in the Lassounde building at York University. The embossed type on button for the ground floor (upper right) says ☆G but the braille says “main”.

What caught my attention was the braille. I’ve seen buttons with star signs before, and what I’d been seeing had been having the star sign “translated” to the letter S—odd to me, but if this is an actual convention then actual blind people probably aren’t going to get confused. However, the first letter for the “ground floor” button was clearly not an S.

So what is it? I took some time trying to decipher it and found that it read “main”. So to a blind person, the building doesn’t have a “ground floor,” but a “main floor.”

I don’t know how others feel, but I think this is an inconsistency.

Looks like UEB is more semantic than Unicode

Unified English Braille distinguishes between many things that Unicode doesn’t distinguish. For example, UEB distinguishes between the seconds (of an angle) sign, the inch sign, and the double prime, whereas Unicode use the double prime for all three.

How, then, can an automatic translator from Unicode to UEB be designed? Wouldn’t this require artificial intelligence?

The better thesaurus, revisited

Working through the source text of a translation contest, suddenly the inadequacy of ordinary dictionaries and thesauri was bugging me again. There are at least semi-usable thesauri for English, but for Chinese, there is virtually nothing usable.

(True, the Revised Dictionary of the National Language is somewhat useful as a thesaurus too, but it is not even comprehensive enough as a dictionary…)

So that quad that I drew in the summer semester (which I believe no one really noticed and so no one commented on) suddenly came back to me: We do need a better thesaurus, and in the fine tradition of Princeton’s WordNet, it should probably be an open platform where people can contribute.

We really need “a better thesaurus,” for both English and Chinese, where people can look up not only synonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms, and that vague notion they call “sister terms,” but antonyms, emphatics, and causatives (yes, those alledgely Semitic ideas). The lack of something that can jog our memory to come up with that elusive causative we invariably need is, in my humble opinion, a serious problem for translators.

Maybe that can be a project, or a paper, or something. I don’t know. Does this really have anything to do with my program? I never got that feedback I needed.

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