I collect old dictionaries, in many languages, translations and otherwise. They are full of rich cultural information, new words, pathways, changed meanings, and I enjoy reading them for the glimpses of other worlds.
Often they contain words that I have to look up in other dictionaries, such as my copy of the first Hebrew-English translation dictionary released in Israel. It has so many words about the desert, about the plants, water, formations, growing, that I had to look a signficant number of them up in English, as I had never heard them. A more modern Hebrew-French translation dictionary I have does not include nearly as many words of this sort.
I can build these models in my mind, in bits and pieces. But what would it be like to build them in the machine, to provide a rich view into different time periods by pouring in time-specific language data?
What if the machine can translate me to 1700s English? What if the machine translated from time periods, different Englishes, or Frenches? What about dialects?
I don’t know where phonology data would come from. What if I want to translate to Beowulf? How does the machine learn to pronounce the language properly?
I can imagine an amazing visualization, a time line, that I can drag into the past, to hear the sounds. Except it would need regional variation as well.
In the tradtion of vac, in which sound matters, the sound and the meaning intricately entwined, what histories can we learn by having the ability to translate to other places in time, not just other languages?