English to Chinese Translation of Prepositions


Machine translation of prepositions is a difficult task; little work has been done, to date, in this area. This article suggests addressing the problem using a semantic framework for the interpretation of the surrounding elements of a preposition in the source language. This framework, called Use Types, will reduce the set of possible prepositions in the target language, therefore helping the translation process. This approach is not language dependent, but we focus, here, on English and Chinese, and we also specifically look at three prepositions: in, on and at. The article describes machine learning experiments designed and conducted in which WordNet is employed to lead to an automatic discovery of the Use Types. Results are analyzed and discussed and a practical use of the system is suggested along with the preliminary results it obtains. 1 Translation of Prepositions: Looking into Use Types Prepositions play a very important role in language. Without or with wrong prepositions, sentences are difficult to understand. Translation of prepositions is difficult and little research has been done on it compared to work done on other words. Furthermore, the issue received close to no attention in the context of English to Chinese. Although some automated translation systems, e.g. Worldling are developed, prepositions are sometimes translated in a non-colloquial or non-understandable fashion. Among the 300 examples we collected from “The Bible” [8], 103 of them were meaningfully translated by Worldlingo, but 197 examples were translated in a non-understandable manner. The problem of translation of prepositions is twofold. First, high usage of prepositions unfortunately comes with a high degree of polysemy; and meanings in different languages do not necessarily match. Second, even for a single meaning, different prepositions are possible. Our hypothesis turns toward work on conceptualization [2] which suggests an interpretation of a preposition based on the semantic interpretation of the nouns surrounding it. This hypothesis is grounded in earlier work by Japkowicz [4,5] in which differences between English and French locative prepositions were analyzed based on the observation that these two languages sometimes conceptualize objects in a different 1 Worldlingo can be found at www.worldlingo.com. English to Chinese Translation of Prepositions 413 way. As an example, consider the object bus. A bus has a roof and several sides, so it can be conceptualized as container as in French. However, a bus also has a platform which can be seen as playing a more important role than the roof or the sides, resulting in a conceptualization as a surface as in English. In our work, a similar idea of conceptualization of objects is explored but through the use of Use Types, as developed by Herskovits [3], which correspond to patterns of a set of sentences from the perspective of cognitive science. Herskovits summarized a list of Use Types for each preposition. In the present work, Use Types are adapted and their range extended outside of locations to include other situations, like time, state, and direction. Table 1 shows a sample of the Use Types for preposition in. The Use Types developed in this research are indicated by a "*". For the most part, we can see that a single Use Type corresponds to a single Chinese meaning, although in some cases, a few different Use Types may belong to the same Chinese meaning, as in the first four examples. Table 1. A sample of the Use Types for preposition in Use Types Example of Sentence Chinese meaning Spatial entity in container The preserves in the sealed jar Physical object "in the air" The bird in the air Physical object in the roadway The ruts in the road Person in institution A man in a red hat (指地点)在...中;在...

DOI: 10.1007/11424918_43

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Li2005EnglishTC, title={English to Chinese Translation of Prepositions}, author={Hui Li and Nathalie Japkowicz and Caroline Barri{\`e}re}, booktitle={Canadian Conference on AI}, year={2005} }