Machine Translation: A Tale of Two Cultures

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One product of the US–Soviet arms race was a vision of computers as fully autonomous translators of human writing and speech in natural languages. In the United States, this vision was embraced by some prominent postwar mathematicians and engineers, contested by others, and regarded with caution or dismay by most humanists and writers and many journalists. Debate over the technical and ethical limits of computing was widespread and energetic, both in the academic world and the US literary and journalistic public spheres; literature and literary language had a surprisingly prominent place in this debate, as the last frontier for the power of computation and its ultimate test. As such (and in the United States at least), the history of machine translation, or “MT,” provides a vivid illustration of the postwar conflict of what C.P. Snow called the “two cultures” of applied science and the humanities.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Translation Studies
EditorsSandra Bermann, Catherine Porter
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2014


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