Subtitling Television Series

A Corpus-Driven Study of Police Procedurals

by Blanca Arias-Badia (Author)
©2020 Monographs XXIV, 248 Pages


Television series are regarded as significant works of popular culture in today’s society, which explains the increasing demand to translate them into other languages to reach larger audiences. This book focuses on one of the two most common modes of audiovisual translation for this type of product: subtitling. The naturalness that is expected in television dialogue together with the spoken-to-written medium conversion entailed in subtitling pose a challenge for professionals, who have been typically blamed for neutralising the source dialogue. Little to no empirical evidence, however, has been provided to effectively address this issue to date.
This book offers a contrastive study of the American English television dialogue and the Castilian Spanish subtitles of three popular police procedurals: Castle (2009), Dexter (2006) and The Mentalist (2008). After introducing some basic notions to frame the study – such as translation norms, audiovisual text and fictive orality – more than twenty lexical and morphosyntactic features in the series are analysed from a qualitative and quantitative point of view. Throughout the chapters, a combination of corpus-based and corpus-driven methodologies are used to offer a sound, empirically grounded characterisation of the language employed in these audiovisual productions and their translations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Charts
  • Figures
  • Screenshots
  • Tables
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • 1.1. The corpus-driven approach
  • 1.2. Aim and research questions
  • 1.3. Chapter organisation
  • Chapter 2 Norms: A cross-disciplinary concern
  • 2.1. Norms in Film and Television Studies
  • 2.2. Norms in Linguistics
  • 2.3. Norms in Translation Studies
  • Chapter 3 The verbal component of the audiovisual text
  • 3.1. The audiovisual text
  • 3.2. Verbal language within the audiovisual text
  • 3.3. Linguistic features of subtitling
  • 3.3.1. The hybrid nature of subtitling
  • 3.3.2. Syntactic features of subtitling
  • 3.3.3. Lexical features of subtitling
  • 3.4. Subtitling scripted dialogue: The challenge of fictive orality
  • 3.4.1. The continuum between spoken and written language
  • 3.4.2. Fictive orality
  • Chapter 4 Corpus presentation
  • 4.1. Genre-oriented criteria in corpus compilation
  • 4.2. Police procedurals
  • 4.3. The Corpus of Police Procedurals (CoPP)
  • 4.3.1. The series under study: Dexter (2006), The Mentalist (2008), and Castle (2009)
  • 4.3.2. Methodological considerations: Corpus compilation, alignment, and exploitation
  • 4.3.3. Language variation and interaction contexts in the CoPP series
  • 4.3.4. Subtitling standards
  • Chapter 5 Morphosyntactic analysis I: Quantitative approach
  • 5.1. Distribution of parts of speech
  • 5.1.1. Feature description and research methodology
  • 5.1.2. Results and discussion
  • 5.2. Sentence distribution and complexity
  • 5.2.1. Number of sentences per subtitle
  • 5.2.2. Types of clauses
  • 5.2.3. Sentence length
  • 5.2.4. Coordination
  • 5.2.5. Subordination
  • 5.2.6. Verbs per sentence
  • 5.2.7. Nominal clauses
  • 5.3 Summary
  • Chapter 6 Morphosyntactic analysis II: Qualitative approach
  • 6.1. Fictive orality in the syntax of the CoPP
  • 6.1.1. Methodological considerations
  • 6.1.2. Altered constituent order
  • 6.1.3. Ellipsis
  • 6.1.4. Question tags
  • 6.1.5. Number disagreement
  • 6.2. Segmentation in the CoPP
  • 6.2.1. Methodological considerations
  • 6.2.2. Segmentation in two-line subtitles
  • 6.2.3. Segmentation of sentences across subtitles
  • 6.3. Summary
  • Chapter 7 Lexical analysis I: Quantitative approach
  • 7.1. Aboutness
  • 7.1.1. Feature description and research methodology
  • 7.1.2. Results
  • 7.1.3. Discussion
  • 7.2. Lexical density and vocabulary richness
  • 7.2.1. Feature description and research methodology
  • 7.2.2. Results
  • 7.2.3. Discussion
  • 7.3. Information load
  • 7.3.1. Feature description and research methodology
  • 7.2.2. Results
  • 7.2.3. Discussion
  • 7.4. Terminological density
  • 7.4.1. Feature description and research methodology
  • 7.4.2. Results
  • 7.4.3. Discussion
  • 7.5. Summary
  • Chapter 8 Lexical analysis II: Qualitative approach
  • 8.1. Offensive and affective lexicon
  • 8.1.1. Feature description and research methodology
  • 8.1.2. Occurrence in the ST and their translation in the TT
  • 8.2. Creative lexicon
  • 8.2.1. Theoretical and methodological framework for the analysis of lexical exploitation
  • 8.2.2. Adapting corpus pattern analysis for the study of TV dialogue and subtitling
  • 8.2.3. Lexical exploitation and conventionalised ‘pseudocreativity’
  • 8.2.4. Lexical exploitation in the CoPP
  • 8.3. Summary
  • Chapter 9 Conclusions
  • 9.1. Fictive orality in TV dialogue and subtitling: Main findings
  • 9.2. The perception of subtitles as exhibiting neutral register
  • 9.3. A genre-oriented approach
  • 9.4. Back to norms
  • 9.5. Limitations and future research
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index


Teamwork is vital in the series explored in this book: neither criminals nor the police tend to act individually. In the same way, this book would not have been possible without the help of a number of people.

First and foremost, thank you, Jorge Díaz Cintas, for your confidence in the work behind this book, as well as for your precious comments to make it better. Thank you also to the editors at Peter Lang, especially Laurel Plapp and Simon Phillimore.

Thank you to each of the scholars who have given me invaluable feedback in so many ways: Sergi Torner and Jenny Brumme, who guided this research, as well as Paz Battaner, Núria Bel, Elisenda Bernal, Gloria Corpas, Pilar Estelrich, Patrick Hanks, Sheila Queralt, Irene Renau, Britta Thörle, and Patrick Zabalbeascoa.

I am grateful to the Institute for Applied Linguistics at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF-IULA) for the funding provided for this publication.

Finally, thank you, Joan, friends and family, for having my back all the way, as Debra Morgan, Teresa Lisbon or Kate Beckett would say. You are simply indispensable.


Chart 1. Distribution of crime-related and non-crime-related dialogue sequences in the first episode of each series

Chart 2. Lexical word categories distribution in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 3. Linear discriminant analysis results for PoS distribution (ST)

Chart 4. Distribution of types of clauses in the ST and the TT of the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 5. Results of semi-automatic analysis of sentence coordination in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 6. Results of manual analysis of coordination occurrence in the subcorpus (relative frequencies)

Chart 7. Distribution of finite and non-finite subordinated clauses in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 8. Results of manual analysis of subordination occurrence in the subcorpus (relative frequencies)

Chart 9. One-verb clauses in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 10. Two-verb clauses in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 11. Three-verb clauses in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 12. Nominal clauses in the CoPP (relative frequencies)

Chart 13. Distribution of syntactic features of fictive orality in the ST subcorpus (relative frequencies per episode, shown in percentages)

Chart 14. Percentage compliance of segmentation guidelines for two-liners in the subcorpus

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Chart 15. Percentage compliance of segmentation guidelines for split sentences across subtitles

Chart 16. Terminological density scores in the subcorpus (relative frequencies, shown in percentages)

Chart 17. Rude and offensive lexicon in the subcorpus (relative frequencies, shown in percentages)

Chart 18. Terms of endearment in the subcorpus (relative frequencies, shown in percentages)

Chart 19. Distribution of exploitations in the ST subcorpus (relative frequencies per episode, shown in percentages)

Chart 20. Percentage occurence of types of translation solutions [T]; for each type of exploitation


XXIV, 248
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (June)
Subtitling Audiovisual translation Television series
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XXIV, 248 pp., 9 fig. b/w, 73 tables

Biographical notes

Blanca Arias-Badia (Author)

Blanca Arias-Badia is a research fellow at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), where she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses on subtitling and audiovisual translation research. She holds a PhD in Translation and Language Sciences from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona. She has undertaken research stays at King’s College London, University College London and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Her main research interests are audiovisual translation and accessibility. She is a member of TransMedia Catalonia (UAB) and InfoLex (UPF), and she leads knowledge transfer projects at the Catalan Association for the Promotion of Accessibility (ACPA). She also works as a translator and proofreader.


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