Palimpsest for Windows:A Tool for Computer Assisted Literary Translation Studies

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Jan-Mirko Maczewski

    Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (University of Gottingen)

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The Palimpsest poster presentation is meant to supplement the theoretical discussion provided by the session on Computer Assisted Literary Translation Studies (CoALiTS). A first example of a Windows application realizing aspects of the theoretical investigation presented in the session, the presentation offers the opportunity to try out the latest version of the Palimpsest software and to discuss practical and theoretical issues on the background of this "hands-on" experience.

Drawing on established models and methods of comparative literary and linguistic studies and fusing them with computer scientific resources, Palimpsest has interdisciplinary discourse at its heart and explores new technical as well as literary issues: the recursive process of software design for literary purposes and the re-formulation of these purposes, leading to a re-writing of the software, is expected to grant new insights into theoretical and practical issues of multilingual text processing that are of interest beyond literary translation as such.

A decidedly experimental and open application, Palimpsest currently divides into two parts: the pre-processors for the creation of word- and phrase-based tables, and the main application with the Palimpsest Viewer and the statistics and concordancing facilities. The presented version recurs to an already pre-processed corpus of six texts, the first italicized passage of Virginia Woolf's The Waves and its three German and two French translations.

The central feature the Palimpsest Viewer offers is the multilinear display of the source text (ST) and its various destination texts (DTs), based on the unit of the phrase as discussed in the session. The Viewer offers to browse phrase by phrase through any of the texts, and to access a specific phrase directly by searching for a particular word or lemma it contains. Via an "Align" button, all other texts can be aligned to the selected phrase. Apart from this, the Viewer screen offers a display of the existing links between ST and DT which can be edited by a mouse click.

Accessible via a pull-down menu, the statistical routines produce dBase tables containing the word- or phrase-based, sentence or not-sentence-aligned output. These files trace the interrelation of the texts by means of measuring the relation of the word- or phrase-order of one text to the others, giving either the accumulative effect in the not-sentence-aligned data or the sentence-aligned results.

Also activated via a pull-down menu, the concordancing routines produce a dBase table containing a word- or phrase-based concordance relating the respective units of the currently selected text to all others.

Looking towards future developments, the as yet star-like organization linking all DTs to the ST, but not to one another, will surely undergo reconsideration, and the conversational form of the presentation during the ACH-ALLC conference seems particularly appropriate to discuss such matters in interdisciplinary conversation; also, the yet quite time-consuming task of manual pre-processing might be eased significantly by co-operation with tagging projects which, in return, could profit from some of the data a Palimpsest tagged multilingual corpus offers.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Bergen

Bergen, Norway

June 25, 1996 - June 29, 1996

147 works by 190 authors indexed

Scott Weingart has print abstract book that needs to be scanned; certain abstracts also available on dh-abstracts github page. (

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (16), ALLC/EADH (23), ACH/ALLC (8)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC