Playing with the Google Greek->English translator

Ekaterini Tsalampouni linked to this blog from her Greek language website.  I wanted to know what she said, so I copied it and pasted it into Google language tools.  The result was really very good:

Κατάλογος ψηφιοποιημένων χειρογράφων.

Από το ιστολόγιο του Roger Pearse πληροφορούμαστε για την ύπαρξη στο διαδίκτυο καταλόγου ψηφιοποιημένων χειρογράφων του Μεσαίωνα (μεταξύ των οποίων και αρκετών της Αγίας Γραφής. Για να βρεθείτε στη βάση δεδομένων, πατήστε εδώ. Για να διαβάσετε τη σχετική ανάρτηση του Roger Pearse, πατήστε εδώ.


List of digitized manuscripts

From the blog of Roger Pearse information on the existence of online digitized catalog of medieval manuscripts (among them several of the Holy Scripture. To get to the database, click here. To read the suspension of Roger Pearse, click here.

What more could you reasonably want?

How would it deal with patristic Greek, I wondered?  There used to be a website at that had PDF’s of Greek texts from the Patrologia Graeca, but it has since vanished.  However I did have a PDF or two, so I grabbed a bit of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, and pasted it in.   Well, from

Κωνσταντίνου ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Χριστῷ, τῷ αἰωνίῳ βασιλεῖ, βασιλέως, υἱοῦ Λέοντος τοῦ σοφωτάτου καὶ ἀειμνήστου βασιλέως, λόγος, ἡνίκα τὸ τοῦ σοφοῦ Χρυσοστόμου ἱερὸν καὶ ἅγιον σκῆνος ἐκ τῆς ὑπερορίας ἀνακομισθὲν ὥσπερ τις πολύολβος καὶ πολυέραστος ἐναπετέθη θησαυρὸς τῇ βασιλίδι ταύτῃ καὶ ὑπερλάμπρῳ τῶν πόλεων. Εὐλόγησον πάτερ.

you get

Κωνσταντίνου ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Χριστῷ, τῷ αἰωνίῳ King βασιλέως, son Λέοντος of σοφωτάτου he ἀειμνήστου βασιλέως reason, the Wise ἡνίκα his sacred Chrysostom he scenes from the Holy ὑπερορίας anakomisthen osper the πολύολβος he πολυέραστος ἐναπετέθη treasure τῇ βασιλίδι ταύτῃ he ὑπερλάμπρῳ cities. Πάτερ blessed.

No good, in other words.  But… then I thought, is this to do with accentuation?  What happens if I remove accents?  If I turn Πάτερ into Πατερ?  Sure enough “Πάτερ blessed” became “Blessed father”!

I’m going to experiment a bit further, and see if stripping off the accents does the trick.  What do we need to do, to make this work, I wonder?  Without any accents, we get:

Κωνσταντινου εν αυτω τω Χριστω, τω αιωνιω βασιλει, βασιλεως, υιου Λεοντος του σοφωτατου και αειμνηστου βασιλεως, λογος, ηνικα το του σοφου Χρυσοστομου ιερον και αγιον σκηνος εκ της υπεροριας ανακομισθεν ωσπερ τις πολυολβος και πολυεραστος εναπετεθη θησαυρος τη βασιλιδι ταυτη και υπερλαμπρω των πολεων. Εὐλογησον πατερ.

Which becomes:

Constantine in Christ afto meantime, meanwhile eternal king, king, son of Leon and sofotatou late king, why, inika the Chrysostom of the wise and sacred AGION scenes from the yperorias anakomisthen osper the polyolvos polyerastos enapetethi treasure and the identity and vasilidi yperlampro cities. Blessed father.

Not quite there, is it?  Interestingly logos = reason in accentuated form, and =’why’ in unaccentuated form.  What am I doing wrong?


7 thoughts on “Playing with the Google Greek->English translator

  1. Since 1982 modern Greek has been written in monotonic, hence machine translation algorithms do not understand accented poltonic Greek. The fact that it can translate without accents is a testament of the conservatism of the Greek language. The word λόγος has multiple meanings, depending on the context hence the weird translations

  2. To transmutate polytonic to monotonic we turn all tones into okseia, for example all ῶ into ώ. Breathings and the iota subcsription is ommited. Single syllable words are never accented with the exception of ή meaning or, in order to distinguish it from the feminine article η. Since the advent of monotonic a large number of people have been ommiting all tones in general unless the text makes no sence otherwise [there are several examples of different words that are spelt the same but differ in the accent like πούρο (cigar) and πουρό (slang for very old man, usually chasing young girls) hence at times it becomes necessary] which is why machine translations can work with unaccented words. See the wikipedia article at

  3. I can’t see the example first character, unfortunately. What is okseia? But the process is:

    1. Omit iota subscript.
    2. Omit all breathings.
    3. What do we do with W~/ ? Does that just become W/ ?

  4. Wikipedia calls okseisa “the acute accent”. Example is in unicode: it is omega with perispomene aka circumflex aka tilde ~. Like all accent it is turned into the acute accent

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