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Multi-retranslation corpora : visibility, variation, value, and virtue

Cheesman, Tom and Flanagan, Kevin and Thiel, Stephan and Rybicki, Jan and Laramee, Robert S. and Hope, Jonathan and Roos, Avraham (2016) Multi-retranslation corpora : visibility, variation, value, and virtue. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. ISSN 2055-768X

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Variation among human translations is usually invisible, little understood, and under-valued. Previous statistical research finds that translations vary most where the source items are most semantically significant or express most 'attitude' (affect, evaluation, ideology). Understanding how and why translations vary is important for translator training and translation quality assessment, for cultural research, and for machine translation development. Our experimental project began with the intuition that quantitative variation in a corpus of historical retranslations might be used to project quasi-qualitative annotations onto the translated text. We present a web-based system which enables users to create parallel, segment-aligned multi-version corpora, and provides visual interfaces for exploring multiple translations, with their variation projected onto a base text. The system can support any corpus of variant versions. We report experiments using our tools (and stylometric analysis) to investigate a corpus of 40 German versions of a work by Shakespeare. Initial findings lead to more questions than answers.