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Translation Studies and Translation Practice: Proceedings of the 2nd International TRANSLATA Conference, 2014

Part 1


Edited By Lew N. Zybatow, Andy Stauder and Michael Ustaszewski

TRANSLATA II was the second in a series of triennial conferences on Translation and Interpreting Studies, held at the University of Innsbruck. The series is conceptualized as a forum for Translation Studies research. The contributions to this volume focus on humo(u)r translation, legal translation, and human-machine interaction in translation. The contributors also regard computer-aided translation, specialised translation, terminology as well as audiovisual translation and professional aspects in translation and interpreting.

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Translation, Theory, and the History of Machine Translation (Pius ten Hacken)


Pius ten Hacken, University of Innsbruck

Translation, Theory, and the History of Machine Translation

Abstract: The history of machine translation shows that different categories of people took the lead in determining the orientation of the field. Only since the 1990s, insights from translation theory started playing a significant role. As a result, MT is now of more practical relevance to translators.

Machine Translation (MT) has a relatively short, but quite turbulent history. In this contribution, it is not my intention to describe this history in detail, but rather to consider how certain historical developments in the field correlate with different theoretical views of the nature of translation. In considering the field of MT, we can distinguish three main groups of stakeholders: software engineers, linguists, and translators. In the course of the history of MT, their roles and relative weights varied and I will take this variation as the basis for a division into periods.

1. The Origins: The Engineers in Charge

Compared to many other applications of computing, MT had a very early start. Usually, Weaver’s (1949) memorandum, sent as a letter to “some 200 of his acquaintances in various fields” (Nirenburg et al. 2003, 17), is taken as the starting point. Booth et al. (1958, 1) state that it was Andrew Booth who in 1946 suggested to Weaver “[t]he use of a machine to translate one language to another”. The first MT conference took place at MIT in...

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