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Politeness and Audience Response in Chinese-English Subtitling

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Yuan Xiaohui

The aim of this book is to study how politeness, and particularly face negotiation, is dealt with when subtitling between Chinese and English. Face negotiation refers to the process of managing relationships across different cultures through verbal and nonverbal interactions. This research specifically investigates how British and Chinese audiences respond to face management through a study focused on film subtitling and viewers’ reception and response.
The book offers a survey of the developments in research on face management in Far East cultures and in the West. The author then presents a composite model of face management for analysing face interactions in selected Chinese and English film sequences as well as its representation in the corresponding subtitles. Support for the research is provided by audience response experiments conducted with six Chinese and six British subjects, using one-on-one interviews. The audience responses show that viewers who rely on subtitles gain a significantly different impression of the interlocutors’ personality, attitude and intentions than those of native audiences. The results also demonstrate that the nature of the power relations between interlocutors changes from the original to the subtitled version.

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Chapter 1 - Introduction 1

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Chapter 1 Introduction Despite a significant amount of work that has been published on quality assessment and strategy development (Kovačič 1996b, Díaz-Cintas and Remael 2007) in audiovisual translation (AVT) studies, much less seems to be available on face management issues in AVT research and viewer response in AVT. This research focuses on investigating the representation of face negotiation in Chinese–English subtitling and examining its impact on audience response. This study follows Hatim and Mason’s (1997: 96) call for empirical investigation of the ef fect that omission in subtitles may have on ‘source language and target language auditor impressions of characters’ attitude’, which has long been a neglected area in AVT studies. In the area of face negotiation, Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987) made the first attempt to set up a comprehensive politeness model that has attracted much discussion and criticism. Among the critics, Watts (2003) voices a valid argument that the model is not a model of politeness but is actually oriented to face management, and hence ushers in a call for separat- ing the notion of face from politeness. Spencer-Oatey (2000) suggests that it is necessary to move from the notion of politeness to socio-pragmatic interactional principles (SIP), which help to manage people’s face/rapport concerns, and also recognises the important impact of cultural variables. In formulating a theoretical framework for this research, this study draws from Brown and Levinson’s (1987) face framework and Spencer-Oatey’s (2000) rapport management notion,1 and establishes a Composite Model of Face...

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