Locke, W. N.

Machine Translation of Languages: Fourteen Essays


The present memorandum, assuming the validity and importance of this fact, contains some comments and suggestions bearing on the possibility of contributing at least something to the solution of the worldwide translation problem through the use of electronic computers of great capacity, flexibility, and speed. During the war, when the whole field of cryptography was so secret, it did not seem discreet to inquire concerning details of this story; but one could hardly avoid guessing that this process made use of frequencies of letters, letter combinations, intervals between letters and letter combinations, letter patterns, etc., This at once leads one to suppose that, in the manifold instances in which man has invented and developed languages, there are certain invariant properties which are, again not precisely but to some statistically useful degree, common to all languages. This, in turn, led him to become interested in the logical structure of the grammar of several other languages; and, quite unaware of W.W.'s interest in the subject, Reichenbach remarked, "I was amazed to discover that, for (apparently) widely varying languages, the basic logical structures have important common features." Translation and Computers Having had considerable exposure to computer design problems during the war, and being aware of the speed, capacity, and logical flexibility possible in modern electronic computers, it was very natural for W.W. to think, several years ago, of the possibility that such computers be used for translation.