That was the last straw, we need more: Are Translation Systems Sensitive to Disambiguating Context?

Jaechan Lee, Alisa Liu, Orevaoghene Ahia, Hila Gonen, Noah A. Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

The translation of ambiguous text presents a challenge for translation systems, as it requires using the surrounding context to disambiguate the intended meaning as much as possible. While prior work has studied ambiguities that result from different grammatical features of the source and target language, we study semantic ambiguities that exist in the source (English in this work) itself. In particular, we focus on idioms that are open to both literal and figurative interpretations (e.g., goose egg), and collect TIDE, a dataset of 512 pairs of English sentences containing idioms with disambiguating context such that one is literal (it laid a goose egg) and another is figurative (they scored a goose egg, as in a score of zero). In experiments, we compare MT-specific models and language models for (i) their preference when given an ambiguous subsentence, (ii) their sensitivity to disambiguating context, and (iii) the performance disparity between figurative and literal source sentences. We find that current MT models consistently translate English idioms literally, even when the context suggests a figurative interpretation. On the other hand, LMs are far more context-aware, although there remain disparities across target languages. Our findings underline the potential of LMs as a strong backbone for context-aware translation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFindings of the Association for Computational Linguistics
Subtitle of host publicationEMNLP 2023
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Pages4555-4569
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9798891760615
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes
Event2023 Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 6 Dec 202310 Dec 2023

Publication series

NameFindings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Conference

Conference2023 Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023
Country/TerritorySingapore
CitySingapore
Period6/12/2310/12/23

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Association for Computational Linguistics.

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