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Federico Pucci

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The overlooked pioneer of machine translation
Précurseur oublié de la traduction automatique
Pioniere dimenticato della traduzione automatica

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Federico Pucci

  1. 1. Federico Pucci The overlooked pioneer of machine translation ENGLISH – FRANÇAIS – ITALIANO This is the title of the book that Federico Pucci’s granddaughter and I have decided to write. Below is its preface: If you do a Google search for traduction automatique, more than 2.5 million results come up. A similar number are retrieved for traduzione automatica, while a search for machine translation, gets 11.5 million results. And so on for all other languages. Figures that are bound to grow in years to come. There has never been more interest in machine translation (MT) than there is now. With neural machine translation, making use of artificial intelligence, coming into the picture, this field is heading towards another revolution. The second big (r)evolution in less than 20 years, after the first wave brought in by Google in the « Noughties ». One of the biggest authorities in the history of machine translation is John Hutchins, whose article « Machine Translation: History », published in 2006 in the Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition (Elsevier), begins with the chapter « Precursors and Pioneers, 1933–1954. It starts like this(1) : Although we might trace the origins of ideas related to machine translation (MT) to 17th-century speculations about universal languages and mechanical dictionaries, it was not until the 20th century that the first practical suggestions could be made, in 1933 with two patents issued in France and Russia to Georges Artsrouni and Petr Trojanskij, respectively. Artsrouni’s patent was for a general- purpose machine that could also function as a mechanical multilingual dictionary. Trojanskij’s patent, also basically for a mechanical dictionary, went further with detailed proposals for coding and
  2. 2. interpreting grammatical functions using ‘universal’ (Esperanto-based) symbols in a multilingual translation device. This clearly posits that the precursors or pioneers of MT were Georges Artsrouni and Petr Trojanskij, with the year 1933 firmly fixed. This view is unanimously shared, and as far as I am aware has never been challenged by anyone. Earlier documents, however, also penned by John Hutchins, mention on two occasions a certain Federico Pucci, from Salerno. The first time in 1997, in a document entitled « First Steps In Mechanical Translation » (2) : In August 1949, the New York Times reported from Salerno that an Italian namedFederico Pucci, had invented a machine to translate, saying that it would be exhibited at a Paris Fair; but no more was to be heard of it. Then in a 2005 update(3) : On 26 August 1949, the New York Times reported (page 9) from Salerno: Federico Pucci announced today that he had invented a machine that could translate copy from any language into any other language. He said that the machine was electrically operated, but refused to disclose details. He said that he would enter it in the Paris International Fair of Inventions next month. It is uncertain whether Pucci had any knowledge of Huskey’s proposals, and it seems most unlikely he knew about Weaver's memorandum or the British experiments. In any event, there is no trace of any demonstration at the Paris fair;and nothing more is known about Pucci. Just a dozen or so lines in all, but the starting point that will lead to an amazing discovery, not to mention a great human adventure. The story of Federico Pucci, about whom nothing at all was known save for these few words. I had an irresistible urge to find out more… He has the merit and the honour of having published the world’s first text on the “mechanical translator” written in modern times, back in 1931 (year IX of the fascist era!): As far as we know, he wrote a total of 10 books in 30 years (French post) explaining the ideas behind his invention, totally unknown today. Writing this preface, a little over a year after having written my first blog post on this wonderful
  3. 3. story, entitled « Machine translation: SCOOP on the dynamo-mechanical translator! », I realise that the intense road already travelled is shorter than that still to be traversed, before Federico Pucci’s role as a pioneer in the history of machine translation is universally recognised, and before a University, or one of the world’s biggest MT players, decides to take up his studies and ideas and finally build a working prototype of his translating machine… Salerno, Easter 2018 Bibliography (1) Hutchins J (2006), Machine Translation: History. In: Keith Brown, (Editor-in-Chief) Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition, volume 7, pp. 375-383. Oxford: Elsevier. http://www.hutchinsweb.me.uk/EncLangLing-2006.pdf (2) FIRST STEPS IN MECHANICAL TRANSLATION John Hutchins (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8241/607f07ca47751bf89e5f173158999d07f8a6.pdf (3) [Corrected version (2005) of paper in: Machine Translation, vol.12 no.3, 1997, p.195-252] From first conception to first demonstration: the nascent years of machine translation, 1947-1954 A chronology John Hutchins http://www.hutchinsweb.me.uk/MTJ-1997-corr.pdf * * * Previous posts : Adscriptor: 4. Il traduttore [elettro]-meccanico secondo Federico Pucci (17/06/2017) 3. Exclusivité : les inventions de Federico Pucci dans la traduction automatique (24/03/2017) 2. Histoire actualisée de la traduction automatique (17/03/2017) 1. Traduction automatique : une découverte extraordinaire (16/03/2017) Translation 2.0: 7. Federico Pucci, linguiste émérite, inventeur et précurseur de la traduction automatique (27/07/2017) 6. Le traducteur [électro]-mécanique selon Federico Pucci (16/06/2017) 5. Exclusivité : Federico Pucci, inventeur du premier "traducteur mécanique" des temps modernes (02/04/2017) 4. Premier texte au monde sur la traduction automatique (15/03/2017) 3. Federico Pucci, pioniere della traduzione automatica (13/03/2017) 2. Federico Pucci : LE précurseur de la traduction automatique (13/03/2017) 1. Traduction automatique : SCOOP sur le traducteur dynamo-mécanique ! (12/03/2017) * * *
  4. 4. P.S. Federico Pucci, a clever and knowledgeable man according to his daughter, was born in Naples on 23 March 1896. He died in Salerno on 6 March 1973 just before reaching the age of 77. He is the great grandson, through his father, of Francesco Benzo, Duke of Verdura, formerly intendant of Basilicata, then praetor and intendant of Palermo from 1849 to 1858, nobleman of the court of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, and also polyglot and interpreter for the King. * * *
  5. 5. Federico Pucci Précurseur oublié de la traduction automatique ENGLISH – FRANÇAIS – ITALIANO Tel est le titre du livre que la petite-fille de Federico Pucci et moi-même avons décidé d'écrire, et dont nous vous proposons ici la préface : En cherchant le binôme traduction automatique, Google renvoie plus de 2,5 millions de résultats, pratiquement autant pour traduzione automatica, presque 11,5 millions pour machine translation (MT), et ainsi de suite dans toutes les langues. Des chiffres inéluctablement destinés à augmenter dans les années à venir. Jamais il n’a été autant question de traduction automatique (TA) que ces jours-ci, et l’arrivée de la TA neuronale faisant levier sur l’intelligence artificielle promet de révolutionner encore le domaine. Soit la deuxième (r)évolution majeure en moins de 20 ans, après la première vague révolutionnaire, signée Google dans les années 2000. S’il est un chercheur qui fait autorité dans l’histoire de la traduction automatique, c’est bien John Hutchins, dont l’article « Machine Translation: History », publié en 2006 dans l’Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition, Éd. Elsevier, commence par le chapitre « Precursors and Pioneers, 1933–1954 » ; en voici le début (1) : Although we might trace the origins of ideas related to machine translation (MT) to 17th-century speculations about universal languages and mechanical dictionaries, it was not until the 20th century that the first practical suggestions could be made, in 1933 with two patents issued in France and Russia to Georges Artsrouni and Petr Trojanskij, respectively. Artsrouni’s patent was for a general- purpose machine that could also function as a mechanical multilingual dictionary. Trojanskij’s patent, also basically for a mechanical dictionary, went further with detailed proposals for coding and
  6. 6. interpreting grammatical functions using ‘universal’ (Esperanto-based) symbols in a multilingual translation device. Il y est donc clairement établi que les précurseurs/pionniers de la TA sont Georges Artsrouni et Petr Trojanskij, et l’année de référence est 1933. Une assertion unanimement reconnue et, à ma connaissance, jamais remise en question par qui que ce soit. Pourtant, dans des documents antérieurs, rédigés par ce même John Hutchins, celui-ci mentionne par deux fois un certain Federico Pucci, de Salerne. La première fois en 1997, dans un document intitulé « First Steps In Mechanical Translation » (2) : In August 1949, the New York Times reported from Salerno that an Italian namedFederico Pucci, had invented a machine to translate, saying that it would be exhibited at a Paris Fair; but no more was to be heard of it. Puis, dans une mise à jour datée de 2005 (3) : On 26 August 1949, the New York Times reported (page 9) from Salerno: Federico Pucci announced today that he had invented a machine that could translate copy from any language into any other language. He said that the machine was electrically operated, but refused to disclose details. He said that he would enter it in the Paris International Fair of Inventions next month. It is uncertain whether Pucci had any knowledge of Huskey’s proposals, and it seems most unlikely he knew about Weaver's memorandum or the British experiments. In any event, there is no trace of any demonstration at the Paris fair;and nothing more is known about Pucci. Soit une dizaine de lignes en tout, mais qui donnent le départ d’une extraordinaire découverte, doublée d’une formidable aventure humaine : celles de Federico Pucci, dont nul n’avait jamais connu rien d’autre que ces quelques mots, jusqu’à ce qu’une irréfrénable curiosité ne me pousse à en savoir davantage… Or c'est quand même à lui que revient le mérite d'avoir publié le premier texte au monde sur le traducteur "mécanique" des temps modernes, dès 1931 (an IX de l'ère fasciste !) : À notre connaissance, il écrira d'ailleurs 10 livres en 30 ans sur son idée d'invention, totalement inconnus aujourd'hui.
  7. 7. En rédigeant cette préface, un peu plus d’un an après avoir écrit mon premier billet de blog sur cette incroyable histoire, intitulé « Traduction automatique : SCOOP sur le traducteur dynamo- mécanique ! », je me rends pourtant compte que le chemin parcouru, déjà riche et intense, est inférieur à celui qui reste à parcourir, avant que le rôle de précurseur de Federico Pucci dans l’histoire de la traduction automatique ne soit universellement reconnu, et qu’une Université, ou encore l’un des acteurs majeurs de la TA dans le monde, ne s’empare de ses travaux et intuitions pour réaliser finalement un prototype fonctionnel de sa machine à traduire… Salerne, Pâques 2018 Bibliographie (1) Hutchins J (2006), Machine Translation: History. In: Keith Brown, (Editor-in-Chief) Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition, volume 7, pp. 375-383. Oxford: Elsevier. http://www.hutchinsweb.me.uk/EncLangLing-2006.pdf (2) FIRST STEPS IN MECHANICAL TRANSLATION John Hutchins (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8241/607f07ca47751bf89e5f173158999d07f8a6.pdf (3) [Corrected version (2005) of paper in: Machine Translation, vol.12 no.3, 1997, p.195-252] From first conception to first demonstration: the nascent years of machine translation, 1947-1954 A chronology John Hutchins http://www.hutchinsweb.me.uk/MTJ-1997-corr.pdf * * * Billets précédents : Sur Adscriptor : 4. Il traduttore [elettro]-meccanico secondo Federico Pucci (17/06/2017) 3. Exclusivité : les inventions de Federico Pucci dans la traduction automatique (24/03/2017) 2. Histoire actualisée de la traduction automatique (17/03/2017) 1. Traduction automatique : une découverte extraordinaire (16/03/2017) Sur Translation 2.0 : 7. Federico Pucci, linguiste émérite, inventeur et précurseur de la traduction automatique (27/07/2017) 6. Le traducteur [électro]-mécanique selon Federico Pucci (16/06/2017) 5. Exclusivité : Federico Pucci, inventeur du premier "traducteur mécanique" des temps modernes (02/04/2017) 4. Premier texte au monde sur la traduction automatique (15/03/2017) 3. Federico Pucci, pioniere della traduzione automatica (13/03/2017) 2. Federico Pucci : LE précurseur de la traduction automatique (13/03/2017) 1. Traduction automatique : SCOOP sur le traducteur dynamo-mécanique ! (12/03/2017) * * *
  8. 8. P.S. Federico Pucci, homme d'ingéniosité et de culture, dans les mots de sa fille, est né à Naples le 23 mars 1896. Il est décédé à Salerne le 6 mars 1973, à la veille de ses 77 ans. Il est l’arrière petit-fils, par son père, de Francesco Benzo Duca della Verdura, d'abord intendant de la Basilicate, puis préteur et intendant de Palerme entre 1849 et 1858, gentilhomme de la chambre du roi Ferdinand II des Deux-Siciles, et accessoirement polyglotte et interprète du roi. * * *
  9. 9. Federico Pucci Pioniere dimenticato della traduzione automatica ENGLISH – FRANÇAIS – ITALIANO E’ il titolo del libro che la nipote di Federico Pucci ed io abbiamo deciso di scrivere insieme, e di cui vi proponiamo qua la prefazione: Cercando su Google traduction automatique, il motore restituisce oltre 2,5 milioni di risultati, praticamente tanto quanto per traduzione automatica, e quasi 11,5 milioni per machine translation (MT), e così via in tutte le lingue. Dei numeri inevitabilmente destinati ad aumentare negli anni a venire. Mai come oggi si è parlato così tanto di traduzione automatica, e l'arrivo della traduzione automatica neurale, che sfrutta l’intelligenza artificiale, promette di rivoluzionare nuovamente il campo. Questa sarà la seconda evoluzione maggiore in meno di 20 anni, dopo la prima ondata rivoluzionaria, firmata Google negli anni 2000. Uno dei ricercatori più autorevoli nella storia della traduzione automatica è John Hutchins, il cui articolo « Machine Translation: History », pubblicato nel 2006 in Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition, Ed. Elsevier, inizia con il capitolo « Precursors and Pioneers, 1933–1954 »; ecco le prime righe(1) : Although we might trace the origins of ideas related to machine translation (MT) to 17th-century speculations about universal languages and mechanical dictionaries, it was not until the 20th century that the first practical suggestions could be made, in 1933 with two patents issued in France and Russia to Georges Artsrouni and Petr Trojanskij, respectively. Artsrouni’s patent was for a general- purpose machine that could also function as a mechanical multilingual dictionary. Trojanskij’s patent,
  10. 10. also basically for a mechanical dictionary, went further with detailed proposals for coding and interpreting grammatical functions using ‘universal’ (Esperanto-based) symbols in a multilingual translation device. Hutchins asserisce quindi chiaramente che i precursori della traduzione automatica sono Georges Artsrouni e Petr Trojanskij, e l'anno di riferimento il 1933. Un'asserzione unanimamente riconosciuta e, per quanto ne so, mai messa in dubbio da nessuno. Tuttavia, in precedenti documenti redatti dallo stesso autore, egli menziona per due volte tale Federico Pucci, di Salerno. La prima volta nel 1997, in un testo intitolato « First Steps In Mechanical Translation » (2) : In August 1949, the New York Times reported from Salerno that an Italian namedFederico Pucci, had invented a machine to translate, saying that it would be exhibited at a Paris Fair; but no more was to be heard of it. poi aggiornato nel 2005(3) : On 26 August 1949, the New York Times reported (page 9) from Salerno: Federico Pucci announced today that he had invented a machine that could translate copy from any language into any other language. He said that the machine was electrically operated, but refused to disclose details. He said that he would enter it in the Paris International Fair of Inventions next month. It is uncertain whether Pucci had any knowledge of Huskey’s proposals, and it seems most unlikely he knew about Weaver's memorandum or the British experiments. In any event, there is no trace of any demonstration at the Paris fair;and nothing more is known about Pucci. Ossia una decina di righe in tutto, ma che danno l'avvio ad una scoperta straordinaria, oltre che una formidabile avventura umana: quelle di Federico Pucci, di cui nessuno aveva mai saputo altro se non quelle poche parole, finché una irrefrenabile curiosità non mi spinse a saperne di più… Eppure il merito di aver pubblicato il primo testo al mondo sul traduttore "meccanico" dei tempi moderni gli deve essere attribuito, nel 1931 (anno IX dell'era fascista!): E per quanto ne sappiamo, scriverà 10 libri in 30 anni sulla sua idea d'invenzione, totalmente sconosciuti ancora oggi.
  11. 11. Nello scrivere questa prefazione, poco più di un anno dopo aver pubblicato sul mio blog il primo post su questa incredibile storia, intitolato « Traduzione automatica: SCOOP sul traduttore dinamo- meccanico! » (in francese), mi rendo conto che la strada percorsa, già ricca e intensa, è di molto inferiore a quella che rimane da percorrere prima di vedere universalmente riconosciuto il ruolo di Federico Pucci come storico precursore della traduzione automatica, e che un'Università, oppure uno dei maggiori protagonisti della traduzione automatica nel mondo, non raccolga il suo lavoro e le sue intuizioni per finalmente realizzare un prototipo funzionale della sua « macchina per tradurre »… Salerno, Pasqua 2018 Bibliografia (1) Hutchins J (2006), Machine Translation: History. In: Keith Brown, (Editor-in-Chief) Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition, volume 7, pp. 375-383. Oxford: Elsevier. http://www.hutchinsweb.me.uk/EncLangLing-2006.pdf (2) FIRST STEPS IN MECHANICAL TRANSLATION John Hutchins (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8241/607f07ca47751bf89e5f173158999d07f8a6.pdf (3) [Corrected version (2005) of paper in: Machine Translation, vol.12 no.3, 1997, p.195-252] From first conception to first demonstration: the nascent years of machine translation, 1947-1954 A chronology John Hutchins http://www.hutchinsweb.me.uk/MTJ-1997-corr.pdf * * * Precedenti post: Su Adscriptor : 4. Il traduttore [elettro]-meccanico secondo Federico Pucci (17/06/2017) 3. Exclusivité : les inventions de Federico Pucci dans la traduction automatique (24/03/2017) 2. Histoire actualisée de la traduction automatique (17/03/2017) 1. Traduction automatique : une découverte extraordinaire (16/03/2017) Su Translation 2.0 : 7. Federico Pucci, linguiste émérite, inventeur et précurseur de la traduction automatique (27/07/2017) 6. Le traducteur [électro]-mécanique selon Federico Pucci (16/06/2017) 5. Exclusivité : Federico Pucci, inventeur du premier "traducteur mécanique" des temps modernes (02/04/2017) 4. Premier texte au monde sur la traduction automatique (15/03/2017) 3. Federico Pucci, pioniere della traduzione automatica (13/03/2017) 2. Federico Pucci : LE précurseur de la traduction automatique (13/03/2017) 1. Traduction automatique : SCOOP sur le traducteur dynamo-mécanique ! (12/03/2017) * * *
  12. 12. P.S. Federico Pucci, uomo d'ingegno e di cultura, detto da sua figlia, è nato a Napoli il 23 marzo 1896, e deceduto a Salerno il 6 marzo 1973, pochi giorni prima di compiere i suoi 77 anni. E’ il pronipote, per via paterna, di Francesco Benzo Duca della Verdura, prima Intendente della Basilicata, poi Pretore et Intendente di Palermo tra il 1849 e il 1858, gentiluomo di camera del re Ferdinando II delle Due Sicilie, ed inoltre poliglotta ed interprete del re.

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