Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Aug. 10, 2021, 7:09 a.m. Humanist 35.179 - translation projects supported by computational methods?

				                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 179.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-08-06 19:58:21+00:00
        From: Crystal Hall 
        Subject: Translation and Computation

Dear colleagues,

I write in the hopes that you might know of examples of translation projects
that have been informed or supported by computational methods (more on those in
a moment). My collaborators and I are just finishing a translation of a work by
Galileo from Italian and Latin to English. My translation choices have been
influenced by my findings from digital humanities research on the texts in
Galileo’s library and I am wondering at least two things: Are there others of us
creating translations through the use of digital and computational methods? Is
there or could there be an established method for uniting the acts of
translating with the acts of computing in the humanities? (I am being
intentionally noncommittal in my choice of umbrella term for these methods in
the hopes of casting a wide net.) I am aware of Handelman’s piece on Franz
Rosenzweig’s archive [https://transit.berkeley.edu/2015/handelman/], but that
seems more structural than the expressive goal I have in mind.

For my project this has meant referring to quantitative features of the original
(i.e. sentence length, vocabulary density); being mindful of stylometric
similarity of sections internal to the original text; relying on a digital
concordance and KWIC; but also using ngram comparisons to books that Galileo
owned to identify non-standard vocabulary usage, dated jargon, and textual
reuse. We are relying on markup to inform eventual visualization of patterns we
have found in the original, particularly those that are proving challenging to
replicate in English, but I imagine that there are more creative ways to employ
markup in the service of creating the translation itself. There is certainly
more to be done.

I would be grateful for indications of projects that are using digital or
computational approaches generatively for translation (what Willard has called
modelling “for”), rather than to study texts already in translation or to
remediate the results or sources of a translation project (i.e. the models “of”
- facing digital pages, searchable text(s), and layers of editorial apparatus).
I welcome thoughts, too, on other ways that translating and computing happen
together or in service of one another and the viability of such approaches.

With gratitude,
Crystal

Crystal Hall (she/her)
Director, Digital and Computational Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Italian Studies
Bowdoin College
Brunswick, ME USA
profhall.net


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