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Mary Nurminen's dissertation on Machine Translations’ usage environments and contexts was awarded in the EST Congress in Oslo

Published on 30.8.2022
Tampere University
Väitöskirjatutkija istuu kirjahyllyn edessä.
In her dissertation, Mary Nurminen researched various usage contexts of machine translations and which factors in these contexts affected how and how successfully machine translation tools could be used.

University teacher Mary Nurminen's dissertation Investigating the Influence of Context in the Use and Reception of Raw Machine Translation was given a dissertation prize in the European Society for Translation Studies conference in Oslo this summer. 

The Young Scholar Prize is awarded every three years. This time, 25 dissertations from nearly as many countries were nominated for the award. The prize is awarded for an excellent and significant contribution to Translation and Interpreting Studies in the form of a dissertation or equivalent monograph, not necessarily published, by a young scholar.

Mary Nurminen rejoices in the award.

- It feels really good! Primarily, because it was such a big project and a big writing job. On top of that, I am very glad because this topic has, thus far, gained very little attention in research even though a very large group of people (estimated 1 billion) use raw machine translations. It is nice that other people also find the topic timely and important.

- The starting point of my study was the idea that the context affects the communication. This idea has a strong scientific basis. In my work, I wanted to delve deeper into which context-related factors affect this new way of communicating via machine translation, Nurminen says.

- In this current stage of machine translation development it is important to see past just the technology and look at how people actually use it. When we understand that better we can develop more user-friendly translation tools. On the other hand, then it is also easier for us to acknowledge when it is useful to use raw machine translations - and when they absolutely should not be used.


Mary Nurminen will continue her research on the topic.

- There is still a lot that we don't know.

Her future plans also include conference arrangements. - Next year we are hosting the European Association of Machine Translation (EAMT)'s yearly conference in Tampere. It is one of Europe's largest conferences on machine translation, tells Mary Nurminen.

The dissertation Investigating the Influence of Context in the Use and Reception of Raw Machine Translation can be found at



The reasons for the award were:


● The dissertation is innovative and timely in various ways.

● It deals with a very different approach to understanding the significance of raw machine translation output – what people who otherwise have little familiarity with translation actually do with it, and the role of MT gisting as a central concept in understanding the phenomenon within the frameworks of contextual influences, risk management and distributed cognition.

● It tackles an under-researched but widespread phenomenon and demonstrates, among other things, how varied and different the uses to which raw MT can be put are.

● Based on your review of previous research and your own case studies, you draw up your own categorisation scheme of MT use and, among other things, demonstrate the need to train people to adequately use and assimilate the information it may yield in its “raw” form.

● Given the novelty and bottom-up nature of your research, you had to develop a flexible methodology adapted to the different uses and contexts under study, which you partly developed and fine-tuned as you went along, combining quantitative and qualitative methods in a multi-method approach including surveys, interviews, MT translated chats and a very innovative Machine Translation Stories website.

● Your PhD extends translation and interpreting studies into the mainstream use of non-finished translation products and offers excellent avenues for further exploration.




Mary Nurminen visited Kielen päällä -program on Yle (12th July 2022).

"If you don't know when you should use a machine for a translation, machine translation can be scary. To avoid mistaked, machine translation should not be trusted in a high-risk situation, such as when translating doctor's instructions. Then again, human translators are not always trusted either. A good translator is paranoid in a good way. Reporter Jari Aula interviews university teacher Mary Nurminen from Tampere University. (The program is in Finnish.) 


It is also worth it to familiarize yourself with Mary Nurminen and Sirkku Latomaa's article Työnkuvan muutos: kääntäjästä jälkieditoijaksi in the Kieliverkosto-publication. In the article they describe a technological breakthrough in the translation field — machine translation tools becoming more common – and its appearance in university curricula. They use a Tampere University course on machine translation and post-editing as an example.

"Based on our experiences and the course tasks we pondered on what kind of prior expectations and knowledge our translator students come to the course with and what is the significance of education to their views." (The article is in Finnish)


Get to know the researcher. Mary Nurminen is a guest in an episode of Voices of Research podcast. (The podcast is in English.)