Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lingual Plaque

I loved Open Wound 1.0 that Seth wrote about earlier. It reminded me of a game my dad and I would play several years ago through e-mail, when I was living abroad. We would take a block of text and put it through an online translator, then translate it back to English. Some things get lost, meaning shifts, the copy isn't as good as the original. We started calling it Lingual Plague, referring to the extra bits of language that collect, seemingly out of nowhere. Online translators are better now than they were when we started doing this eight years ago, so it helps to run them through multiple times using a different language each time. I decided to try it using the text from the first part of Seth's post, here the original again:

Talking about William S. Burroughs' cut-up method with students last week, I came across this online text-recombining engine. My favorite thing about it is that it's called Open Wound 1.0, but it's a pretty interesting version of a randomizer. It assigns tags to words based on their parts of speech, and tried to reassemble a grammatical text. As such, it doesn't actually work, but the attempt is interesting. This is the beginning of the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature, reassembled:

I then translated it to Bulgarian and back to English, then I took the results and went to Finnish and back again, then Italian. Here's the result:

We're talking about William S. Burroughs' cut method with students last week that led to this on-line text of the recombination of the engine. My favorite thing to him is that he is entitled 'An open wound 1.0, but this is a very interesting randomizer. He gave the speech codes based on their parts of speech, and tried to erect a grammar of text. As such, it is not real work, but the experience is interesting. This is the beginning of a technical literature reassembled futurist manifesto:

I'm a little bummed that the translators are getting better. Back in 2000, three passes would yield an almost incomprehensible garble of text. Now, it seems like the final pass through Italian actually fixed a few things that were messed up after the Finnish version.

UPDATE: I just ran the text at the top of the blog, "repository for fragments, detritus, phrases..." through quite a number of times and the results are more amusing, probably due to the loose grammar of the original:

Beet, fruits, phrases, short, attachments, indexical backer, the holder for a piece of chaotic and intuitive, it is foolish and unnameable, which is part of the section unfolds


elisabeth workman said...

"Beet, fruits, phrases, short, attachments"

holy parataxis! i love the idea of "found" in translation ...

its iterations in japan in the beautiful (though dubiously coveted) instances of so-called "engrish"

juliana spahr's book of poems _fuck you, aloha, i love you_, was partially generated through the use of a translator engine...

there's much to explore in this terrain...

i love that it was a mode of familial communication for you

Barbara Campbell Thomas said...

feel like I'm seeing words for the first time--both the original version and the eventual iterations--love this post!