Lexical Statistical Machine Translation for Language Migration

A. T. Nguyen, T. T. Nguyen, T. N. Nguyen. FSE 2013

Prior research has shown that source code also exhibits naturalness, i.e. it is written by humans and is likely to be repetitive. The researchers also showed that the n-gram language model is useful in predicting the next token in a source file given a large corpus of existing source code. In this paper, we investigate how well statistical machine translation (SMT) models for natural languages could help in migrating source code from one programming language to another. We treat source code as a sequence of lexical tokens and apply a phrase-based SMT model on the lexemes of those tokens. Our empirical evaluation on migrating two Java projects into C# showed that lexical, phrase-based SMT could achieve high lexical translation accuracy ( BLEU from 81.3-82.6%). Users would have to manually edit only 11.9-15.8% of the total number of tokens in the resulting code to correct it. However, a high percentage of total translation methods (49.5-58.6%) is syntactically incorrect. Therefore, our result calls for a more program-oriented SMT model that is capable of better integrating the syntactic and semantic information of a program to support language migration.