There is a considerable amount of contention over the true source of the word “chapbook.” Scholars of Anglo-Saxon history and language contend that the prefix “chap-” is derived from the ancient word “ceap,” while others maintain it is merely a corruption of “cheap;” however, most attribute the word’s popularity to the chapman—European peddler, reporter, and rogue-of-all-trades from the 16th to at least the 18th century.
If I understand it correctly, the poetry translator basically layers several poetic constraints on top of the standard translator: line length, rhyme, meter, etc. Google’s translator uses what Jaron Lanier calls a “brute force” approach to translation. That is, it doesn’t know the rules of grammar—it doesn’t even really have a dictionary. Rather, it scours its database and determines statistical correlation between translations of pages.
Ever since I read an article on cloud computing and Google’s ability to translate web pages based upon its database alone (that is, nobody programmed the various language rules in it; it literally translates via algorithm), I’ve been interested in Google’s relationship with language. Now, any of you who have used Google Translation know it’s pretty awful, but the idea alone is impressive, and there’s no telling where improvements will take it.