Language of the Future
Posted: 11 November 2011 06:02 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Read this Salon article last night.  Thought I would share it.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Read this Salon article last night.
---

How can I do that? I don’t have a time machine.

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Posted: 18 November 2011 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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donkeyhotay - 11 November 2011 06:02 AM

Read this Salon article last night.  Thought I would share it.

I think the article has it all wrong. With computerized translation, there will be no need to learn second languages in the future.

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Posted: 18 November 2011 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Maybe in some future sci-fi world like Star Trek with its universal translators, but no one seriously believes that computers will be able to deliver rapid and context-specific translation in any future that we can reasonably foresee. For certain applications, like translating newspaper articles, we can reasonably expect pretty darn good translations within a decade, but for many uses, particularly conversation, we can’t expect computers to be anywhere near as good as humans.

Polysemy will simply defeat the computers. For example, I was just translating a medieval saint’s life from Latin and encountered the word miracula. This can be miracle, or it can be wonder, amazement, wondrous [thing], freak, freakish [person], or hideously ugly woman (plus probably a few other meanings I can’t think of). Does praedico mean to proclaim, to publish, to praise, to preach, to warn, to predict, to recommend, or to say beforehand? Which sense best fits a given context is not something a computer is going to be able to determine well. It can probably get pretty close, but for a really fine translation, you’ll need a human.

Then there is translating handwritten documents and manuscripts.

And then there’s translating poetry and other literary works. That is an art and requires aesthetic judgment on the part of the translator. Not to mention that no matter how good the translator, it will not be same as the original. For example, Seamus Heaney is among the greatest of living poets, and he is an excellent scholar of Old English. But while his translation of Beowulf is a fine one, it just doesn’t compare to reading it in the original. The poem is so much more subtle, beautiful, and powerful in the original Old English.

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Posted: 18 November 2011 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I know a professional translator and can attest to the fact that translating requires some major brain power.

Dave’s comment sort of, to me, suggests the issue of the Turing Test. If an artificial intelligence can convince a reasonably intelligent human being that it, too, is a human being, then it is as intelligent and self aware as a human being. Or something like that. Since language is probably one of those things that we human beings do best, then it would take an equally empowered computer to do the same.

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Posted: 18 November 2011 08:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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According to Mark Abley, some rich Koreans pay for their children to have an operation that lengthens the tongue because it helps them speak English convincingly. The suggestion is that it enables them to produce r and l sounds, although the evidence of the many proficient English-speakers among Korean immigrants in America and Britain makes one wonder whether the procedure is either necessary or useful.

What the hell? Surely this is purely quackery or charlatanry.

EDIT:  I think I might buy this book. Seems it would be entertaining.

[ Edited: 18 November 2011 08:35 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 18 November 2011 08:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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OP Tipping - 11 November 2011 06:24 PM

Read this Salon article last night.
---

How can I do that? I don’t have a time machine.

I’ve got a used one I can sell you really cheap. And you can pay me Tuesday for a hamburger today. And you can put the money I give you next year in your bank account this Friday.

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Posted: 18 November 2011 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Iron Pyrite - 18 November 2011 08:39 PM

I’ve got a used one I can sell you really cheap. And you can pay me Tuesday for a hamburger today. And you can put the money I give you next year in your bank account this Friday.

Short-selling is banned in some countries now.

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Posted: 20 November 2011 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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To be fair to donkeyhotay and Mr. Hitchings, the article is written rather well according to my grading scale. I give it high points for: 1. Provoking annoyance because I have to work to understand what he is saying. 2. Causing me to be envious because it says things in a style and manner to which I aspire. 3. leaving me with questions to which I do not have easy answers.

Also, Mr Hitchings touches very effectively on just about all the big issues concerning World English: social, political, economic, historical, cultural, and (not least of all) linguistic. The important fact that the major languages of the world today are all subject-verb-noun construction with little inflection is merely a small part of one paragraph. The rest of the article is similarly packed.

Thanks for the link!

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Posted: 20 November 2011 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Interesting article.  Can anyone explain what is meant by this:  “the peculiarly conservative, and hence increasingly anti-phonetic, system is another facet of English that bears a resemblance to Chinese”?  What is increasingly anti-phonetic system of English?

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Posted: 20 November 2011 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Presumably by anti-phonetic he means that English spelling does not always reflect the way the word is sounded. This would tie in with the description conservative, which English orthography is, but why increasingly anti-phonetic? That puzzles me (if indeed my interpretation is correct) as the speak-as-you-spellers have been more in evidence over the last half-century than any anti-phonetic trend.

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