On the statistical/rule-based divide regarding MT

The classical divide with regard to MT separates statistical from rule-based MT. But this divide is not as clear-cut as one could think at first glance. For rule-based MT can operate statistically. Let us take an example, concerning the disambiguation of French ‘est’: it can be translated either as is or as east, depending on the context. Defining the rules for disambiguating ‘est’ can be somewhat complicated. A rule-based MT could then define a few rules that would cover 90% of the cases, and for the remaining 10%, it could apply a closure rule that translates ‘est’ into is inconditionnally. Such rule would be based on the statistical fact that most often, ‘est’ translates into is and not into east. Such rule may succeed in most of the cases. As we see it, such rule is statistical by essence. Hence the conclusion, the statistical/rule-based divide regarding MT is not as as clear-cut as one could think prima facie. For a disambiguating system for rule-based MT could be built with closure rules of this type, that would ooperate statistically.

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