Food for Thought: How can we exploit contextual embeddings in the translation of idiomatic expressions?

Lukas Santing, Ryan Jean-Luc Sijstermans, Giacomo Anerdi, Pedro Jeuris, Marijn ten Thij, Riza Batista-Navarro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingAcademicpeer-review


Idiomatic expressions (or idioms) are phrases where the meaning of the phrase cannot be determined from the meaning of the individual words in the expression. Translating idioms between languages is therefore a challenging task. Transformer models based on contextual embeddings have advanced the state-of-the-art across many domains in the field of natural language processing. While research using transformers has advanced both idiom detection as well as idiom disambiguation, idiom translation has not seen a similar advancement. In this work, we investigate two approaches to fine-tuning a pretrained Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer (T5) model to perform idiom translation from English to German. The first approach directly translates English idiom-containing sentences to German, while the second is underpinned by idiom paraphrasing, firstly paraphrasing English idiomatic expressions to their simplified English versions before translating them to German. Results of our evaluation show that each of the approaches is able to generate adequate translations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Figurative Language Processing (FLP)
Place of PublicationAbu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Hybrid)
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022
Event3rd Workshop on Processing Figurative Language - Online, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 7 Dec 20228 Dec 2022


Workshop3rd Workshop on Processing Figurative Language
Abbreviated titlePFL 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
CityAbu Dhabi


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