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Translating Humour in Audiovisual Texts

Edited By Gian Luigi De Rosa, Francesca Bianchi, Antonella De Laurentiis and Elisa Perego

Humour found in audiovisual products is, of course, performative in nature. If we consider instances of humour – any droll moment occurring in today’s fare of mixed-genre products as a composite of cognition, emotion, interaction and expression – we see that the verbal code becomes just one component of four equally significant elements. And, as ‘expression’ is not limited to verbal output alone, humour may of course be created in absence of a verbal code. Translating humour for audiovisuals is not too different from translating verbal humour tout court. What makes humour occurring within audiovisual texts more problematic is the fact that it may be visually anchored; in other words a gag or a joke may pivot on verbal content directed at a specific element that is present within the graphic system of the same text. As the term itself suggests, audiovisuals contain two overlying structures: a visual and an auditory channel each of which contain a series of both verbal and non-verbal elements which inextricably cross-cut one another. The contributors in this collection of essays present a series of case studies from films and video-games exemplifying problems and solutions to audiovisual humour in the dubs and subs in a variety of language combinations.
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Translating verbally expressed humour in dubbing and subtitling: the Italian versions of Shrek: Vincenza Minutella



Translating verbally expressed humour in dubbing and subtitling: the Italian versions of Shrek

1. Introduction

The aim of this article is to explore how Italian dubbing and subtitling render verbal humour that presents “complex translational challenges” (Chiaro & Piferi, 2010: 295) in the animated movie Shrek tetralogy. More specifically, the paper will describe instances of language and culture-based humour and will try to answer the following questions: do dubbing and subtitling differ in the way they tackle this type of humour? If so, how do they differ? Is it possible to identify translation trends? The aim of the study is not to judge whether dubbing is better than subtitling or vice versa, but rather to provide a descriptive analysis of the choices made in the two translation modes in order to ascertain their approach to verbal humour.

The Shrek films have been chosen since they are among the most successful animated movies worldwide and they are rich in multilayered humour and complex intertextuality. They appeal to a wide, intergenerational audience thanks to their frequent linguistic puns, irony, parody and references to fairy tales, films, songs, nursery rhymes, famous people, and the like.

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