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Speech Acts, Directness and Politeness in Dubbing

American Television Series in Hungary


Károly Polcz

The culture specificity of speech acts may pose daunting challenges in translating audiovisual products. This volume offers intriguing insights into the ways dubbing translators seek to establish pragmatic equivalence in speech acts such as requests, instructions, advice, invitations and offers. What is the nature of pragmatic equivalence in speech acts? What types of pragmatic shifts do translators employ in the pursuit of pragmatic equivalence? Do shifts in directness have a bearing on target language politeness? While focused on a relatively large amount of linguistic data retrieved from more than 700 episodes of twenty different television series, the study introduces a multidimensional model that can be used as a heuristic tool in the analysis of speech acts in translation studies. This venture into the realm of pragmatics and translation research is aimed at capturing dominant patterns in translating speech acts in audiovisual translation, which, as the author claims, could be tied to translation universals.
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Chapter 7 Pragmatic transfer


Chapter 7

Pragmatic transfer

7.1 Introduction

In the American family comedy Dennis, the Menace (John Hughes, 1993) Dennis, who is a young child, uses the following formula to greet his elder neighbour: Good Morning, Mr Wilson. The dubbing translator replaced the greeting with its Hungarian calque. At a translation studies conference, one of the presenters used this example to argue that similar calques are in fact pragmatic errors in translation (Horváth, 2010). According to the presenter, the act of greeting should be adjusted to the communicative norms in the TL; thus, the solution Csókolom. Fred bácsi! [I kiss you, uncle Fred!] would be a pragmatically more adequate solution because this is the way children are supposed to greet adults in the TL culture.9 Some participants from the audience argued that the translator’s solution was adequate because the viewer is aware that the film takes place in an American town where it would sound strange if speakers were using Hungarian formulas. Presumably, the presenter considered the translating solution as a pragmatic error because it sounds inadequate, that is, translationese in Hungarian language use. This divergence of opinion raises some intriguing questions in translation studies. Is it reasonable to view instances of pragmatically motivated translationese as pragmatic errors? Are there similar instances of translationese in translating conventionally indirect directive and commissive speech acts from English to Hungarian? If so, what is the possible explanation for such←201 | 202→ phenomenon? In addition to attempting...

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