Machine Translation

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 21–87 | Cite as

Towards a Lexicographic Approach to Lexical Transfer in Machine Translation (Illustrated by the German–Russian Language Pair)

  • Igor Melčuk
  • Leo Wanner


The translation of lexical items is still a formidableobstacle in the field of Machine Translation. The present articleaddresses this problem from the perspective of modernlexicography, putting forth detailed monolingual lexica whichcontain highly elaborated descriptions of lexical items. Leavingaside the resolution of homonymy on the source side and theselection of the appropriate synonym on the target side, weconcentrate on the case of ``multiple lexical correspondences'’,i.e., mismatches between monosemic lexical items. We proposeto use the lexical transfer methodology. Our proposal exploits afine-grained semantic decomposition of the meaning of both sourceand target lexical items as well as information on ``actantialvalency'' (semantic restrictions) and on collocations. The lexicaldescriptions are formalized so as to allow for automatic matchingthereof. We present a rule-based procedure that selects the mostappropriate translation equivalent of a source lexical item byusing matching. The proposal is illustrated drawing on threeGerman and three Russian monosemic speech-act nouns; their lexicalentries are given in an appendix. Two examples of lexical transferbetween these lexemes are analyzed in detail.

German lexical clues lexical transfer lexicography multiple lexical correspondence Russian semantic decomposition 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alshawi, Hiyan, David Carter and Manny Rayner: 1991, ‘Translation by Quasi Logical Form Transfer’, 29th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Berkeley, CA, pp. 161–168.Google Scholar
  2. Apresjan, Jurij D. [Апресян, Юрий. Д.]: 1974, Лексuческая семанmuка: Сuнон-uмuческuе сре∂сmва языка [Lexical Semantics: Synonym Resources in Language]. Москва: Наука 2nd revised edition published 1995, Ммсква: Школа “Языки русской кулътуры”: English translation appeared as Lexical Semantics, User's Guide to Contemporary Russian Vocabulary, Ann Arbor: Karoma (2000).Google Scholar
  3. Apresjan, Jurij D. [Апресян, Юрий. Д.]: 1992, ‘Коннотация частъ прагматики слова (лексикографический аспект). [Connotation as Part of Lexical Pragmatics (Lexicographical Aspect)]'. Москва: Наука. Reprinted as Ю. Д. Апресян, Избранные mру∂ы. Том П. Инmеsраль ное оnuсанuе языка u сuсmемная лексuкоsрефuя, Масква (1995): Школа “Языки русской культуры”, pp. 156–177.Google Scholar
  4. Apresjan, Jurij and Erna Páll: 1982, Orosz ige — magyar ige. Vonzatok és kapcsolódások [Russian Verb — Hungarian Verb], Government and Cooccurrence, Budapest: Tankönyvkiadó.Google Scholar
  5. Attali, A., G. Bourquin, M. Bourquin-Launey and A. Euvrard (eds): 1989, ‘Transfer lexical et contexte sémantique en traduction automatique. Les traductions françaises des verbes anglais Draw, hold, lie, turn, work’ [Lexical Transfer and Semantic Context in Machine Translation. French Translations of the English Verbs Draw, Hold, Lie, Turn, Work], Cahiers du C.R.A.L., numéro 46, Centre d'études linguistiques pour la traduction automatique, Nancy, France.Google Scholar
  6. Barnett, James, Inderjeet Mani and Elaine Rich: 1994, ‘Reversible Machine Translation: What to Do When the Languages Don't Match Up’, in Tomek Strzalkowski (ed.), Reversible Grammar in Natural Language Processing, Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 321–364.Google Scholar
  7. Buschbeck-Wolf, Bianka and Christel Tschernitschek: 1996, ‘What You Always Wanted to Know About Semantic Transfer’, Technical report, Institute for Logic and Linguistics, IBM, Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  8. Carpenter, Bob: 1992, The Logic of Typed Feature Structures, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Copestake, Ann, Dan Flickinger, Rob Malouf, Susanne Richemann and Ivan Sag: 1995, ‘Translation using Minimal Recursion Semantics’, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Machine Translation, Leuven, Belgium, pp. 15–32.Google Scholar
  10. Dorna, Michael and Martin C. Emele: 1996a, ‘Efficient Implementation of a Semantic-Based Transfer Approach’, Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Budapest, pp. 567–571.Google Scholar
  11. Dorna, Michael and Martin C. Emele: 1996b, ‘Semantic-based Transfer’, COLING-96, The 16th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Copenhagen, Denmark, pp. 316–321.Google Scholar
  12. Dorr, Bonnie J.: 1994, ‘Machine Translation Divergences: A Formal Description and Proposed Solution’, Computational Linguistics 20, 579–634.Google Scholar
  13. Elhadad, Michael, Kathleen McKeown and Jacques Robin: 1997, ‘Floating Constraints in Lexical Choice’, Computational Linguistics 23, 195–239.Google Scholar
  14. Emele, Martin: 1997, ‘Die TFS-Sprache und ihre Implementierung’ [The TFS Language and its Implementation]. Ph.D. thesis, Universität Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  15. Firth, John: 1951, ‘Modes of Meaning (1951)’, in J. Firth (ed.), Papers in Linguistics 1934–1951, Oxford (1957): Oxford University Press, pp. 190–215.Google Scholar
  16. Glovinskaja, Marina: 1993, ‘Семантцка гiеiоiов реiц с тоукц зреиця теорцц рецевух актов’, in Е. Земская [E. Zemskaja] (ed.), Русскuu язык в еsо функuuонuрованuu. Коммунuкаmuвно-nраsмаmuческuu асnемm, Москва: Наука, pp. 158–218.Google Scholar
  17. Goodman, Kenneth and Sergei Nirenburg (eds): 1991, The KBMT Project: A Case Study in Knowledge-Based Machine Translation, San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Helbig, Gerhard: 1992, Probleme der Valenz-und Kasustheorie [Problems in Valency and Case Theory], Tübingen: Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  19. Hjelmslev, Louis: 1953, Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hutchins, W. John: 1986, Machine Translation: Past, Present, Future, Chichester: Ellis Horwood.Google Scholar
  21. Hutchins, W. John and Harold L. Somers: 1992, An Introduction to Machine Translation, London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Ide, Nancy and Jean Véronis (eds): Special Issue on Word Sense Disambiguation, Computational Linguistics 24(1).Google Scholar
  23. Iordanskaja, Lidija and Igor Mel'čuk: 1990, ‘Semantics of Two Emotion Verbs in Russian: bojat' sja ‘to be afraid’ and nadejat' sja ‘to hope'’, Australian Journal of Linguistics 10, 307–357; reprinted in I. Mel'čuk, The Russian Language in the Meaning-Text Perspective, Москва/Wien (1955): Школа “Языки русской культуры”/Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, pp. 81–124.Google Scholar
  24. Jackendoff, Ray: 1990, Semantic Structures, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kay, Martin: 1980, ‘The Proper Place of Men and Machines in Language Translation’, Technical report, Xerox Parc, Palo Alto. Reprinted in Machine Translation 12, 3–23, 1997.Google Scholar
  26. Kay, Martin, Jean Mark Gawron and Peter Norvig: 1994, Verbmobil: A Translation System for Face-to-Face Dialog, Stanford, CA: CSLI.Google Scholar
  27. King, Margaret (ed.): 1987, Machine Translation Today: The State of the Art, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lenat, Douglas and R. Guha: 1990, Building Large Knowledge-Based Systems. Representation and Inference in the Cyc Project, Reading: Addison Wesley.Google Scholar
  29. Markstein, Else: 1989, ‘Ist Les gleich Wald? — Übersetzbarkeit und Assoziationen’ [Is Les the same as Wald? Translatability and association], Русuсmuка 1, 58–72.Google Scholar
  30. Mel'čuk, Igor A. [Игорь А. Мельчук]: 1974, Оnыm mеорuu лuнsьuсmuческu мо∂елеu “Смысл ↔ Тексm”. Семенmuка, сuнmаксuс [Outline of the Theory of Linguistic “Meaning ↔ Text” Models. Semantics, Syntax], Москва: Наука reprinted 1999 by Школа “Языки русской культуры” (Москва).Google Scholar
  31. Mel'čuk, Igor: 1984/1988/1992/1999, Dictionnaire explicatif et combinatoire du français contemporain: Recherches lexico-sémantiques [Explanatory Combinatorial Dictionary of Contemporary French: Lexico-Semantic Research], 4 volumes, Montréal, Canada: Presses de l'Université de Montréal.Google Scholar
  32. Mel'čuk, Igor: 1988, Dependency Syntax: Theory and Practice, Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mel'čuk, Igor: 1996, ‘Lexical Functions: A Tool for the Description of Lexical Relations in a Lexicon’, in L. Wanner (ed.), Lexical Functions in Lexicography and Natural Language Processing, Amsterdam: Benjamins Academic Publishers, pp. 37–102.Google Scholar
  34. Mel'čuk, Igor: 1997, Vers une linguistique Sens-Texte. Leçon inaugurale [Towards Meaning-Text Linguistics. Inauguration Lesson], Paris: Collège de France.Google Scholar
  35. Mel'čuk, Igor, André Clas and Alain Polguère: 1995, Introduction à la lexicologie explicative et combinatoire [Introduction to Explanatory Combinatorial Lexicology]. Louvain-la-Neuve: Duculot.Google Scholar
  36. Mel'čuk, Igor A. and Alain Polguère: 1987, ‘A Formal Lexicon in the Meaning-Text Theory (or How to Do Lexica with Words)’, Computational Linguistics 13, 261–275.Google Scholar
  37. Mel'čuk, Igor and Alexander Žolkovskij: 1984, Explanatory Combinatorial Dictionary of Modern Russian, Wien: Wiener Slawistischer Almanach.Google Scholar
  38. Miller, George, Christiane Fellbaum, Judith Kegl and Karen Miller: 1988, ‘Wordnet: An Electronic Lexical Reference System Based on Theories of Lexical Memory’, Technical report, Cognitive Science Labaratory, Princeton University, Princeton.Google Scholar
  39. Nasr, Alexis, Owen Rambow, Martha Palmer and Joseph Rosenzweig: 1997, ‘Enriching Lexical Transfer with Cross-Linguistic Features or How to Do Interlingua without Interlingua’, Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Interlingua, San Diego, CA, pp. 91–98.Google Scholar
  40. Nirenburg, Sergei (ed.): 1987, Machine Translation: Theoretical and Methodological Issues, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Nirenburg, Sergei and Irene Nirenburg: 1988, ‘A Framework for Lexical Selection in Natural Language Generation’, COLING Budapest: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Budapest, pp. 471–475.Google Scholar
  42. Paducheva, Elena: 1997, ‘Verb Categorization and the Format of a Lexicographic Definition (Semantic Types of Causative Relations)’, in Leo Wanner (ed.), Recent Trends in Meaning-Text Theory, Amsterdam: Benjamins Academic Publishers, pp. 61–73.Google Scholar
  43. Polguère, Alain: 1998, ‘Pour un modèle stratifié de la lexicalisation en génération de texte’ [Towards a stratified model of lexicalization in text generation]. l.a.l. 39(2), 57–76.Google Scholar
  44. Pollard, Carl and Ivan Sag: 1987, Information-based Syntax and Semantics: Volume 1, Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Pustejovsky, James: 1995, The Generative Lexicon, Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  46. Rohrer, Christian: 1995, ‘Mehrdeutige Wörter in der maschinellen Übersetzung’ [Polysemous Words in Machine Translation], in H. Hoinkes (ed.), Panorama der lexikalischen Semantik: thematische Festschrift aus Anlaß des 60, Geburtstags von Horst Geckeler, Tübingen: Narr, pp. 551–565.Google Scholar
  47. Sag, Ivan and Thomas Wasow: 1999, Syntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction, Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  48. Schubert, Klaus: 1987, Metataxis: Contrastive Dependency Syntax for Machine Translation, Dordrecht: Foris.Google Scholar
  49. Schumacher, Helmut: 1986, Verben in Feldern [Verbs in (Semantic) Fields], Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  50. Sharp, Randall and Oliver Streiter: 1992, ‘Simplifying the Complexity of Machine Translation’, Meta 37, 681–692.Google Scholar
  51. Somers, Harold L.: 1987, Valency and Case in Computational Linguistics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Stede, Manfred: 1996, Lexical Semantics and Knowledge Representation in Multilingual Sentence Generation, Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  53. Trujillo, Arturo: 1999, Translation Engines: Techniques for Machine Translation, London: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  54. van Noord, Gertjan, Joke Dorrepaal, Pim van der Eijk, Maria Florenza, Herbert Ruessink and Louis des Tombes: 1991, ‘An Overview of MiMo2’, Machine Translation 6, 201–214.Google Scholar
  55. Wanner, Leo: 1997, Exploring Lexical Resources for Text Generation in a Systemic Functional Language Model, Ph.D. thesis, Saarbrücken: Universität des Saarlandes.Google Scholar
  56. Whitelock, Pete: 1992, ‘Shake-and-Bake Translation’, Proceedings of the fifteenth [sic] International Conference on Computational Linguistics: COLING-92, Nantes, France, pp. 784–791.Google Scholar
  57. Whorf, Benjamin: 1956, Language, Thought and Reality, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  58. Wierzbicka, Anna: 1985, Lexicography and Conceptual Analysis, Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.Google Scholar
  59. Wierzbicka, Anna: 1987, English Speech Act Verbs, Sydney: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  60. Wierzbicka, Anna: 1991, Cross-cultural Pragmatics. The Semantics of Human Interaction, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  61. Wierzbicka, Anna: 1992, Semantics, Culture and Cognition. Universal Human Concepts in Culture-specific Configurations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Zajac, Rémi: 1992, ‘Inheritance and Constraint-Based Grammar Formalisms’, Computational Linguistics 18, 159–182.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Igor Melčuk
    • 1
  • Leo Wanner
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and TranslationUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

Personalised recommendations