A sentence translation system for English and Maori

Alistair Knott, Ian Bayard, Samson de Jager, Lindsay Smith, John Moorfield,
Richard O'Keefe
Dept of Computer Science, School of Maori Studies, University of Otago

In this seminar, we'll be talking about a system we have developed
over the past year which performs translations of simple sentences
from English to Maori and vice versa. For instance, "The dog chased
the cat" translates to "I whai te kurii i te ngeru" (among other
things); "Kua auau ngaa kurii i whai ai i te ngeru" translates to "The
dogs who chased the cat had barked" (among other things).

Translation happens via meaning, rather than just by mapping words
onto words. When the user enters a sentence, the system first works
out its grammatical structure, then computes a semantic representation
for the sentence in a first-order logical language, which is entirely
language-independent. This representation is then passed to a sentence
generator, which produces a set of sentences (in both English and
Maori) which express this semantics.

The connection between language and semantic representations means the
system is also able to operate as a bilingual natural language
front-end to a database authoring and query system. We will give some
examples of this as well.