Linguistics at the Service of Machine Translation: Modality as an Example

Sarah Eid


Disagreement between linguists and translation theorists has been incessant as linguists consider linguistics as an essential part in the translation process while translation theorists consider translation as a discipline that stands by itself with its own strategies and theories. However, though this dispute isn’t recent, no one has tried to show how linguistic topics can serve in the understanding of a sentence and how should the tagging process be for Machine Translation (MT). This paper highlights the long clash between linguists and translation theorists, the history of machine Translation, the definition of modality, the types of modality, the factors that affect the meaning of a certain modal in a sentence, and the tagging of modals to best use them in machine translation. It also attempts to show how linguistics is at the service of MT if it is well exploited according to the linguistic epistemic tagging mainly the tagging of modals and the adjacent parts of speech in order to give correct translation when using MT.

 Qualitative research is conducted through comparing a set of bilingual English-Arabic samples from the UNDP documents in order to come up with rules that fortify the abovementioned assumption. As a conclusion, the researcher shows that modalized translation doesn’t work with modals because Arabic doesn’t have a defined modal system and the meaning varies from one sentence to another based upon the speaker or writer’s opinion or attitude unless taking into consideration the surrounding factors of modals. The comparative analysis will be adopted to show the way the parts of a language function when expressing ideas in other languages (Moindjie, 2015).

Keywords: Machine Translation, Modals, Tagging, Epistemic.

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