TOVNA machine-translation software (144)

Thu, 12 Jan 89 19:54:59 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 497. Thursday, 12 Jan 1989.

Date: 12 January 1989
From: Itamar Even-Zohar <B10@TAUNIVM>
Subject: Machine translation

Here is a short description of TOVNA, a machine translation system
which I have been preoccupied with recently. I believe this
information can be of interest to others who are both skeptical of
and fascinated by machine translation. This particular system is very
promising indeed.

(I wish to declare that I am in no commercial or other way connected
to this product. My report is wholly based on information received
from the company when I was testing it, as well as on my personal
experience with its performance. Though I have not operated it
independently, I managed to test it in a sufficient variety of ways
to be able to express some opinion about its capacities.
- Itamar Even-Zohar)


TOVNA MTS (I will refer to it in the following as "Tovna") is a
sophisticated AI solution for multi-language environments. It
currently allows automatic translation for French-English Russian-
English (both ways). The French-English option is at a more advanced
stage than the Russian-English one.

In accordance with new developments in this field, automatic
translation (AT) is no longer conceived of as man-independent.
Translation is interactive in the sense that both a "regular" and an
advanced user (a "power user") can intervene in the various stages of
the MTS decision making. The system consequently can be taught both
rules and new material, including personal preferences on various
levels, both directly and indirectly (through extraction - see

Tovna maintains a complete and rigorous separation of knowledge of
the language from the software. This means that there is only one set
of software programs which work in exactly the same way with *all
languages* available with Tovna. There is only one system for the
user to learn.
Moreover, Tovna is a learning system which improves with use. The
more it translates, the better its performance.

Ambiguity (which leads to incorrect translation) is handled by
discovering, at each phase of the translation process, all the
possible alternatives, passing them on to the next phase in the
expectation that later phases will reject the incorrect alternatives.

The problem of incomplete specification of grammar (which leads to
incomplete translations) is handled by Tovna's capacity to extract
(construct) rules from examples. The linguist who "teaches" Tovna a
language's grammar can do so by either specifying a rule, or where
more convenient, by providing a local solution to a specific case,
i.e., an example. One is never required to specify an algorithm and
in fact has no way of doing so.

Although ambiguity and incomplete specification of grammar are the
crucial problems which must be solved by an MT system, they are
hardly the only ones whose solution is critical to the success of the
system. Other, less technical but still important issues which must
be addressed are:

a. Pre-editing and post editing of text.
b. Adding new words and phrases to dictionaries.
c. Adding new languages to the system.

Pre-editing and post-editing of text consume valuable time because
the user must hunt down sections which require post-editing, and the
output format is often not suitable for word processors and
typesetting equipment. With Tovna, no pre-editing is required. A high
degree of accuracy will eventually eliminate the need for most post-
editing as the system improves its performance. Moreover, Tovna
maintains typesetting and control codes for complete compatibility
with word processors and typesetting equipment (existing and future).

Tovna makes it easy to add words and phrases to dictionaries, by
providing sophisticated and easy to use menu based screens which
enable the user to enter the required data accurately and quickly in
a user friendly environment.

The problem of adding new languages to an MT system is especially
vexing. Most existing systems have to be completely rewritten to
accommodate a new language, a process which takes several years.
Often, the new system has different capabilities and a different user
interface, thus confusing the user. Since Tovna maintains a complete
and rigorous separation of knowledge of the language from the
software, new languages can be added relatively quickly. ("Quickly"
is, of course, relative: I am told that each new language requires
something between 6 months and 2 years, depending on how remote the
relevant language is from the extant material.)

The language's complexity is reflected not in the algorithms but
rather in the rules and in the example-based language model. More
complex languages simply have more rules and more examples in their
models. The software is the same for all languages, and the system's
capabilities and user interface are consistently maintained across
all languages.

In addition to being language independent (that is, the same software
works with all languages), Tovna is also operating system independent
and machine independent. Tovna can work with most commonly available
operating systems and most commonly available computers. It works
best, however, with large memory and large storage, which means that
it would be fastest with an advanced SUN. When I worked with it on a
SUN (with 16 MB of memory), it speed was very impressive, especially
in entering new material and teaching it new fatures.

Tovna headquarters are located in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. The
European sales office is located in London. Here are the addresses
for those who wish further information:

Tovna TM Ltd.
Yigal Alon 127
Tel Aviv 67443
(Phones: 03-256252/3; Fax: 03-256257)

Tovna TM Ltd.
Betar 17
(Phones: 02-712623, 02-719157)

Tovna TM Ltd.
C.I.B.C Building
Cottons Lane
London SE12QL
(Phones: 1-2346633/4/5. Fax: 1-2346897)

Itamar Even-Zohar
Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics
Tel Aviv University