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Wintner Shuly - The Features of Translationese

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Conférence donnée par Shuly Wintner dans le cadre du séminaire "Language, cognition and computational models".

Translation is a text production mode that imposes cognitive (and cultural) constraints on the text producer. The product of this process, known as *translationese*, reflects these constraints ; translated texts are therefore ontologically different from texts written originally in the same language. Many of the special properties of translationese are believed to be universal, in that they are manifest in any translated text regardless of the source and target languages. In fact, a cognitive framework has been suggested as the explanation of translation universals.

In this work we test several Translation Studies hypotheses using a computational methodology that is based on supervised machine learning. Casting the problem in the paradigm of authorship attribution, we define dozens of classifiers that implement various linguistically-informed features that reflect translation universals. While the practical task of distinguishing original from translated texts is easy, we focus not on improving the accuracy of classification, but rather on designing linguistically meaningful features and assessing their contribution to the task. We demonstrate that some feature sets are indeed good indicators of translationese, thereby corroborating some hypotheses, whereas others perform much worse (sometimes at chance level), indicating that some `universal’ assumptions have to be reconsidered.

While our results are limited to the case of translationese, this methodology can be adopted for studying other kinds of texts produced under different cognitive constraints, such as texts produced by non-native speakers, by people with learning disabilities or medical problems, or by children acquiring a language.

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