Translating with Semantic Representations

The beauty of the topic I’ve chosen for my B.A. thesis lies in the fact that it is about Machine Translation (MT), the prototypical application of Computational Linguistics (CL), relatively easy to explain yet incorporating many subdisciplines of CL. When I started studying CL three years ago, I told my grandparents about MT, now I can tell them I’m actually doing it.

Of course, what I’m doing compares to state-of-the-art MT systems like a lever does to a particle accelerator. My thesis will be about devising and implementing, in Prolog,  a program that translates a certain class of English sentences, like (1a), to correct and elegant German counterparts, like (1b). Crucially, in generating the German sentence, no other information about the English input will be used than the semantic first-order logical formulae, as in (2), derived from the input using BB1, the software accompanying Blackburn’s and Bos‘ textbook. (Since the English and the German sentence both carry the same ambiguity, both of them are associated with two logical formulae, (2a) and (2b)).

(1a) Every boxer loves a woman.
(1b) Jeder Boxer liebt eine Frau.

(2a) ∀x(boxer(x)→∃y(woman(y)∧love(x,y)))
(2b) ∃x(woman(x)∧∀y(boxer(y)→love(y,x)))

In other words, I use these simple logical formulae as an interlingua, leaving parsing and „understanding“ to (a possibly marginally extended version of) the existing system by Blackburn and Bos and focussing my efforts on generating German sentences. Nested quantification and negation, predicates best expressed as relative clauses, nouns, verbs or adjectives, and anaphoric expressions, among other things, will make this quite interesting.

Right now, I am concerned with defining my approach precisely and describing the place it has among other approaches from the literature. Today I collected dimensions along which Natural Language Generation (NLG) and MT systems can be positioned. I hope to post something about them tomorrow, before leaving for a break on the bicycle.

Here’s the title of my B.A. thesis: Problems of Generating German from Logical Formulae in Automatic Translation from English to German.

Ein Gedanke zu „Translating with Semantic Representations

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