Call for contributions to the TRACT symposium: “Literary translation and artificial intelligence: theory, practice, creation”

TRACT (Centre for research in translation and transcultural communication), one of the five teams of the PRISMES-EA 4398 research unit at Sorbonne Nouvelle, plans to organize the colloquium ” Literary Translation and Artificial Intelligence: Theory, Practice, Creation” on October 20 and 21. The debates will focus on machine translation, and more specifically the major changes that neural machine translation (NAT) will bring to the field of translation.

Artificial intelligence has led to a major technological evolution in the field of translation, machine translation software has become more and more efficient and offers almost instantaneous translation. Autonomous neural machine translation (TAN) learning systems, based on the deep learningare now able to perform complex tasks and offer a smoother and more precise translation, taking into account the context, than that provided by statistical translation.

However, specific translation services use human translators to polish the translated texts. By mastering the subtleties of the language, they can check for misinterpretations and make the necessary corrections. This post-editing work also makes translators fear that their status will be called into question, as the creative dimension of their profession would thus be threatened by TAN.

TRACT’s call for papers

The TRACT team wondered about the implications that the use of TAN will bring to the concept of translation and decided to organize a seminar on June 20 and 21 for which it is launching a call for papers. After creating an account on Sciences Conf, it will be possible to send contribution proposals in French or in English. before June 6, 2022 here (Beforehand, please create an account on Sciences Conf).

Contributions must include:

  • a title;
  • a 300-word abstract;
  • 5 keywords;
  • a short bio-bibliography;

The response will reach the authors of the proposals by July 1, 2022. A selection of contributions will be published in the 38th issue of the journal Palimpsests.

Literary translation and artificial intelligence symposium

The TRACT team asked themselves the following questions: How our experience of translation, modified by the presence of the machine, necessarily influences our way of thinking (about) translation. Is the machine able to grasp the singularity of an author’s style, of what he does with and to the language? Can she find a strategy capable of restoring this complex transformation, in one way or another? This leads us to a renewed questioning of what it means to “understand” a text, and more generally to “read” a text, a fortiori if we consider with G. Steiner that “to understand is to translate”. Can we say that the machine reads the text to translate it as the bio-translator does? Translating involves the application of an extremely refined form of thought. Yet the question posed in 1950 by Alan Turing, one of the fathers of artificial intelligence (AI), was it not “Can machines think? », that is indeed the whole question. How does the human translator apprehend the source text? Is reading the text to be translated different from reading for pleasure? By what paths, hesitations, backtracking, consulting dictionaries, etc., does the translator arrive at the target text? Can the machine define its target text and adapt its translation strategies to it? Can research on the cognitive processes at work in human translators shed useful light on these questions?

Three axes are envisaged (which inevitably overlap in certain points):

  • Initiate literary translators, translatologists, teacher-researchers, students to new tools from AI, CAT, TAN, enlighten them on their functioning, the role of computational linguistics, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, their history, perspectives of progress, their limits, etc.
  • How does TAN measure up to literary texts; what challenges does literature (poetry in particular) oppose to it with its equivocations, its ambiguities, its enigmatic meanings, its untranslatable points which are often its signature? Conversely, what part can the TAN, the TAO, play in the renewal of literary creativity?
  • Does TAN effect a paradigm shift for translation? How does the omnipresence of the machine allow us to become aware of the automation of certain processes once carried out by expert translators? What becomes of the place of the bio-translator: does he see himself liberated or, on the contrary, alienated by the machine (which cannot function without exploiting human data)? How do these changes experienced by translators make it possible to design a new paradigm, including but also exceeding the pragmatic dimension of this work?

In this context, we may be interested, among others, in the following questions

  • Could new MT tools eventually really replace human translators?
  • Teaching translation at university in the era of TAN?
  • Can corpus translation studies and CAT improve the quality of literary translations or retranslations?
  • To what extent are the practices of pragmatic translators transferable to literary translators?
  • Does the machine make the bio-translator an augmented translator or a diminished translator? What role for the machine, what role for the human?
  • How do TAN and CAT modify the translator’s relationship to the literary text, his reading of the text and therefore his engagement with the text?
  • Human/machine interaction in literary translation: is collaboration possible, desirable, or harmful?
  • Are literary translators not likely to be strongly encouraged by publishers to become specialized revisers (development of post-editing)? Will the machine not reduce them to an ancillary function from which they have been trying to free themselves for decades?
  • Can’t the machine make itself the ally of literary creativity, through the hazard that it introduces into translation, or again, through the formal constraints that can be instilled in it (rhymes and feet in translation of poetry, for example)?
  • Isn’t genre literature, which often responds to fairly formatted forms of writing (fantasy, romance, etc.), an ideal target for the development of TAN in the literary field?
  • Does the machine “hear” the voice of the author? Is she able to make a singular voice heard in the translation?
  • What about the translation “project” dear to Antoine Berman if the text is entrusted to a machine?
  • Does corpus stylistics make it possible to better study and compare the translation strategies implemented by human translators? Is it relevant for comparing machine translation and bio-translation?
  • Does the reception by readers of literary texts differ according to the methods of their translation?

We would like to give thanks to the author of this post for this remarkable material

Call for contributions to the TRACT symposium: “Literary translation and artificial intelligence: theory, practice, creation”


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