[Humanist] 27.213 a universal translator

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jul 16 13:37:56 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 213.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2013 13:10:32 +0000
        From: "Lele, Amod" <lele at bu.edu>
        Subject: Re:  27.209 A universal translator? Then what?
        In-Reply-To: <20130712205218.0C2823A09 at digitalhumanities.org>

Regarding Willard's post, it seems to me that the differences in culture
are exactly those differences carried into the language of philosophy and
poetry. Dr. McCarty notes that one would not want to use translation
software for these and other "highly subtle use of language"; and I think
that point is inseparable from the point about differences in culture.
Which is in a sense to say that SayHi or similar software does not really
remove difference in language at that deeper level. Clearly such
technology is highly useful and we should not underestimate that
usefulness. But I do not think it will do anything to remove cultural

Indeed, one might speculate that as such software becomes more ubiquitous,
it will make people more able to remain embedded in their mother tongues
and avoid having to learn the lingua franca for practical communication,
because the software will do it for them. In that way it might make
cultural differences deeper. We have already seen over the past few
decades how people have come to assert national and regional identities
far more strongly in the face of a global economy that would seem to work
by effacing them.

Amod Lele.
Amod Lele, PhD
Educational Technologist, Information Services & Technology
Visiting Researcher, Center for the Study of Asia
Boston University
Office: 617-358-6909
Mobile: 617-645-9857
lele at bu.edu

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