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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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Foreword: Humour and audiovisual translation: an overview: Elisa Perego




Humour and audiovisual translation: an overview

Audiovisual translation (AVT) is a long established practice. It can be traced back to the origins of cinema, i.e., to the silent era, and it grew more complex during the transition to the sound era, when intertitles transformed into subtitles, early dubbing arose, and multiple-language versions as well as multilingual scripts had to be handled. For over 80 years now AVT has played a major role in satisfying the ever growing need to make film products readily available in numerous countries around the world. There are several known modes of AVT. They include the more common dubbing and subtitling (in its inter- and intra-lingual forms), and the less widespread voice-over, narration and commentary, and they now also embrace audio description for the blind. It is known that historical factors, financial means, cultural background, political orientation, linguistic choices and geographical dynamics have influenced countries around the world in choosing the form which better suited them, and most of them still stick to them (Perego & Taylor, 2012).

Once established, AVT soon aroused intense interest on the part of practitioners and scholars who started to feel the need to understand its inner mechanisms. Orero (2009) sets 1932 as the earliest date for research on AVT, which however began to be considered as part of the discipline of Translation Studies only around the 1980s, after considerable stiff resistance. Indeed, as Chaume (2004, but see also Kozloff,...

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