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Translating Humour in Audiovisual Texts

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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Dubbing or subtitling humour: does it really make any difference?: Juan José Martínez Sierra



Dubbing or subtitling humour: does it really make any difference?

1. Dubbing and subtitling

Dubbing and subtitling have been confronted for a long time, thinking that the important task was to write about them in opposition terms and attacking one to defend the other and vice versa. That debate will not be prolonged here, since there is no solid reason to prefer one mode over the other (Chaume, 2000: 56). In fact, it is possible to conceive them as two practices that can perfectly coexist and give response to different markets in a complementary manner.

In any case, for the time being (and probably for a long time yet) Spain keeps being a dubbing country. In spite of that, it is possible to detect a considerable presence of other audiovisual modes, such as voice-over (much extended in the translation of documentaries; see, for example, Martínez Sierra, 2010) and subtitling (which has been gaining some positions in recent times). In the case of the audiovisual product that has been chosen for this study – the television series The Simpsons –, dubbing is the mode that has been selected for the Spanish broadcasting (although subtitling is also present in some moments, such as the translation of inserts and of the lyrics to a song). However, should we consider other resources or formats, such as the dual and digital emission of this series and its marketing in DVD, the possibility of...

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