Machine Translated Atwood: Utopia or Dystopia?
Margaret Atwood’s masterful linguistic creativity exceeds the limits of ordinary discourse. Her elliptical language contributes to interpretative gaps, while the ambiguity and openness of her texts intentionally deceive the reader. The translator of Atwood’s texts therefore faces the challenge of identifying the rich interpretative potential of the original, as well as of preserving it in the target language. Witnessing the rise of artificial intelligence, a natural question arises whether a human translator could ever be replaced by a machine in translating such challenging texts. This article aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on literary machine translation by examining the translations of Atwood’s “Life Stories” generated by two neural machine translation (NMT) systems and comparing them to those produced by translation students. We deliberately chose a literary text where the aesthetic value depends mostly on the author’s personal style, and which we had presumed would be problematic to translate.
Atwood, Margaret. (2006) 2007. “Life Stories.” In The Tent, 3–5. New York: Anchor.
Bonner, Anne. 2019. “What is Deep Learning and How Does it Work?” Towards Data Science, September 7, 2019. https://towardsdatascience.com/what-is-deep-learning-and-how-does-it-work-f7d02aa9d477.
Borg, Claudine. 2016. “A literary translation in the making: an in-depth investigation into the process of a literary translation from French into Maltese.” PhD diss., Aston University. https://publications.aston.ac.uk/id/eprint/30855/1/Borg_C._2017.pdf.
Gadpaille, Michelle. 2018. “Sci-Fi, Cli-Fi or Speculative Fiction: Genre and Discourse in Margaret Atwood’s ‘Three Novels I Won’t Write Soon’.” ELOPE 15 (1): 17–28. https://doi.org/10.4312/elope.15.1.17-28.
—. 2014. “Thematics and its Aftermath: A Meditation on Atwood’s Survival.” Primerjalna književnost 37 (3): 165–77.
Hladnik, Marko. 2017. “Variability in the Syntax of Idioms.” ELOPE 14 (2): 25–37. https://doi.org/10.4312/elope.14.2.25-37.
Kravariti, Alexandra. 2018. “Machine translation: NMT translates literature with 25% flawless rate.” Translate Plus, February 9, 2018. https://www.translateplus.com/blog/machine-translation-nmt-translates-literature-25-flawless-rate/.
Kuzman, Taja, Špela Vintar, and Mihael Arčan. 2019. “Neural Machine Translation of Literary Texts from English to Slovene.” In The Qualities of Literary Machine Translation, edited by James Hadley et al., 1–9, Dublin: Machine Translation Summit XVII. https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/volumes/W19 -73/.
Leech, Geoffrey, and Mick Short. 2007. Style in Fiction. Harlow: Pearson.
Matusov, Evgeny. 2019. “The Challenges of Using Neural Machine Translation for Literature.” In The Qualities of Literary Machine Translation, edited by James Hadley et al., 10–19, Dublin: Machine Translation Summit XVII. https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/volumes/W19-73/.
Nischik, Reingard. 2006. “Margaret Atwood’s Short Stories and Shorter Fictions.” In The Cambridge Companion to Margaret Atwood, edited by Coral Ann Howells, 145–60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Popović, Maja. 2018. “Error Classification and Analysis for Machine Translation Quality Assessment.” In Translation Quality Assessment, Machine Translation: Technologies and Applications 1, edited by Joss Moorkens et al., 129–58. Cham: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91241-7_7.
Pregelj, Barbara. 2019. “Nekaj podatkov za oris profila slovenskih prevajalk in prevajalcev.” In Bela knjiga o prevajanju 2018, 65–77. Ljubljana. http://www.belaknjigaoprevajanju.si/files/2019/03/Bela_knjiga_cela.pdf.
Schwartz, Ros, and Nicolas de Lange. 2006. “A dialogue: on a translator’s interventions.” In The Translator as Writer, edited by Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush, 9–19. London, New York: Continuum.
Scott, Clive. 2018. The Work of Literary Translation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Slettedahl Macpherson, Heidi. 2010. The Cambridge Introduction to Margaret Atwood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Somacarrera, Pilar. 2013. “Contextual and Institutional Coordinates of the Transference of Anglo-Canadian Literature into Spain.” In Made in Canada, Read in Spain: Essays on the Translation and Circulation of English-Canadian Literature, edited by Pilar Somacarrera, 21–53. London: Versita.
Tezcan, Arda, Joke Daems, and Lieve Macken. 2019. “When a ‘sport’ is a person and other issues for NMT of novels.” In The Qualities of Literary Machine Translation, edited by James Hadley et al., 40–49, Dublin: Machine Translation Summit XVII. https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/volumes/W19-73/.
Toral, Antonio, and Andy Way. 2014. “Is Machine Translation Ready for Literature?” In Proceedings of translating and the computer 36, edited by João Esteves-Ferreira et al., 174–76. Geneva: Editions Tradulex. http://www.tradulex.com/varia/TC36-london2014.pdf.
—. 2018. “What Level of Quality Can Neural Machine Translation Attain on Literary Text?” In Translation Quality Assessment. Machine Translation: Technologies and Applications, vol. 1, edited by Joss Moorkens et al., 263–87. Cham: Springer.
Vintar, Špela. 2018. “Terminology Translation Accuracy in Statistical versus Neural MT: An Evaluation for the English-Slovene Language Pair.” In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018), 34–37. European Language Resources Association. Miyazaki, Japan.
—. 2013. “Uvodnik: o rojstvu korpusa SPOOK in njegovih prvih sadovih.” In Slovenski prevodi skozi korpusno prizmo, edited by Špela Vintar, 6–13. Ljubljana: Ljubljana University Press.
Way, Andy. 2018. “Quality Expectations of Machine Translation.” In Translation Quality Assessment. Machine Translation: Technologies and Applications 1, edited by Joss Moorkens et al., 159–78. Cham: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91241-7_7.
Wu, Yonghui, Mike Schuster et al. 2016. “Google’s neural machine translation system: Bridging the gap between human and machine translation.” Ithaca: Cornell University. https://arxiv.org/abs.
Copyright (c) 2020 Tjaša Mohar, Sara Orthaber, Tomaž Onič
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal ELOPE by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.