Machine translation, ethics and the literary translator’s voice

Dorothy Kenny, Marion Winters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recent work in translation studies has established the literary translator’s voice as an ethical concern, but there has been little empirical research so far into how the translator’s voice is affected in workflows involving machine translation. In this article, we investigate how the use of neural machine translation influences the textual voice (Alvstad et al. 2017) of renowned translator from English into German, Hans-Christian Oeser. Based on an experiment in which Oeser post-edits an excerpt from a novel he had previously translated, we show how his textual voice is somewhat diminished in his post-edited work compared to its stronger manifestation in his translation work. At the same time Oeser’s contextual voice (ibid.) remains strong in his comments on the text he produces in post-editing mode. The article is offered as a methodological intervention and represents an initial attempt to design studies in literary machine translation that put the focus on human translators, allowing their voices to be heard more clearly than has previously been the case.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslation Spaces
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Apr 2020


  • literary translation,
  • translator’s voice,
  • textual voice,
  • contextual voice,
  • translator style,
  • neural machine translation

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