Volume 35, Issue 4
  • ISSN 0924-1884
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9986
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Literary occasionalisms, new words coined by writers with a particular poetic aim in view, often pose a great challenge for translators. Given recent advances in machine translation (MT), could literary translators benefit from MT when it comes to the translation of occasionalisms? We address this question by considering the work of Austria’s most important nineteenth-century comedy writer, Johann Nestroy (1801–1862). We compare how human translators and two generic neural MT systems (Google Translate, DeepL) translated occasionalisms (compounds, derivations, and blends) in Nestroy’s play into English. While human translators largely refrained from creating new target expressions, the two MT systems generated a number of viable new coinages, most of them by literal translation procedures. In an interactive human-computer environment, using MT output as a repository from which to retrieve novel target solutions or derive inspiration might open up new avenues in the practice of literary translation.


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