I can understand the term Artificial intelligence and how the meaning is exemplified by the combination of those two words. But...

How is the meaning constructed in the term 'machine learning'? My understanding is that it is the field of study of - machines that learn, or making machines learn.

To put it bluntly, why is it called machine learning instead of learning machine? What are the linguistic constructs works here to manifest the meaning the term does?

I am trying to translate this term into another language, that is why this question rises. Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    You seem to have answered your own question (cf "machines that learn"). Can you please pinpoint the deeper source of concern? Discounting the phrases you've already presented, I'm not sure what you're asking for, or what you would consider to be a full answer to your question.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 7 '18 at 14:00
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    That's because it's a type of learning, not a type of machine. By the way, this site treats comments as ephemeral, and they can be deleted without notice. It would be good for you to edit the new information into your question. As no answers have been posted yet, you don't have to preserve the old parts with "UPDATE" headings (most of the edit trail is automatically preserved and can be viewed easily).
    – Lawrence
    Apr 7 '18 at 14:33
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    'Machine learning' is a fixed expression, probably best considered as a compound noun. You probably need an equivalent term rather than a breakdown, and it may well be it doesn't exist in your target language. Apr 7 '18 at 15:34
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    It's a kind of learning. What kind of learning? By machines. A dog park is a park. What kind of park? For dogs.
    – Mitch
    Apr 7 '18 at 17:49
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    I’m voting to close this question because it lacks basic research. Wikipedia has an article on "machine learning", for a start. Oct 18 '21 at 13:11

If you are translating from English into a Romance language, a useful starting point is the Grand dictionnaire terminologique maintained by Quebec’s Office de la langue francaise. The construction will be similar even if the exact words are different.

However, this only works because France has a significant information technology industry to provide the working terms, and because French-speakers in Quebec are strongly motivated to maintain their language. If your target language does not have equivalent properties, it may not be possible to create a native term with any staying power.

Your best approach might be to use the initials ML with a definition in parentheses after the first use. In English, we commonly use acronyms, such as FIFA, that have been created in other languages, but which have internationally accepted meanings.

Machine learning has been around since at least the sixties. It is possible that translations into your target language already exist, e.g. in course descriptions for computer science programs at the university level (and available on websites), or in popular articles reporting on advances in computer chess.

The word machine is used in machine learning as an adjective modifying the word learning, as others have pointed out. It’s a fairly common construction in computer science and engineering. Similar terms include automated, artificial, computational, etc., all of which have slightly different nuances and usages, and - importantly for your project - slightly different equivalents in other languages.

  • I didn't know that the words like machines can be used as adjectives as I am not native to english. This is an eye opener. Thanks a lot Apr 17 '18 at 5:39

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