Creativity in translation: machine translation as a constraint for literary texts

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This article presents the results of a study involving the translation of a short story by Kurt Vonnegut from English to Catalan and Dutch using three modalities: machine-translation (MT), post-editing (PE) and translation without aid (HT). Our aim is to explore creativity, understood to involve novelty and acceptability, from a quantitative perspective. The results show that HT has the highest creativity score, followed by PE, and lastly, MT, and this is unanimous from all reviewers. A neural MT system trained on literary data does not currently have the necessary capabilities for a creative translation; it renders literal solutions to translation problems. More importantly, using MT to post-edit raw output constrains the creativity of translators, resulting in a poorer translation often not fit for publication, according to experts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalTranslation Spaces
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28-Mar-2022


  • creativity in translation
  • machine translation post-editing
  • literary translation
  • Dutch translation
  • creative shift

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