Death to Neologisms: Domestication in the English Retranslations of Thomas Mann’s Der Tod in Venedig


  • Marlies Gabriele Prinzl University College London



Neologisms, Linguistic Creativity, Retranslation,


Thomas Mann’s Der Tod in Venedig (1912) owes much of its fame in English to a translation from 1928 by Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter. The novella however has in fact been translated many times – first by Burke (1924, with a revised edition following in 1970), and, after Lowe-Porter, by Luke (1988), Koelb (1994), Appelbaum (1995), Neugroschel (1998), Chase (1999), Heim (2004), Doege (2007) and Hansen & Hansen (2012). Most of these versions are neither known to readers nor discussed in academic literature. This paper, which comes as part of a larger study on linguistic creativity in Der Tod in Venedig, focuses on the use of neologisms by Mann and what happens to them in (re)translation. Relying on a digital corpus composed of the complete set of English retranslations and a corpus-based methodology, the paper argues that, despite the extended time period between the publications and different translation conditions, neologisms are treated uniformly by the translators. Mann’s coinages are nearly always obliterated  through normalisation and, if preserved, demonstrate less creativity overall than in the ST, raising questions about the Retranslation Hypothesis (RH) which proposes that early TT versions tend to domesticate while later ones increasingly foreignise.