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Politeness and Audience Response in Chinese-English Subtitling


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 2 - Theories of Facework and Subtitling 7


Chapter 2 Theories of Facework and Subtitling This chapter of fers a theoretical review of two research areas that are per- tinent to the scope of this study, that is, face management and subtitling. Sections 2.1 to 2.10 present a review of the evolution of politeness theory through time and across cultures in order to develop a suitable theoretical framework for data analysis in this book. Firstly, the research development in the West is investigated with a focus on Brown and Levinson’s (1987) model and Spencer-Oatey’s (2000, 2003, 2007, 2008) conceptualisation of rapport management and a face notion with cultural underpinnings. Then the Far East scholars’ arguments are examined critically, represented by Gu’s (1990) politeness maxims tailored to unpack the Chinese polite- ness phenomena and Matsumoto (1988) and Ide’s (1989) analysis of Japa- nese honorifics usage, followed by Fukada and Asato’s (2004) proposition refuting claims made by Matsumoto and Ide. Section 2.11 investigates the nature and technical constraints in subtitling, focusing on their impact on the representation of face management in subtitling induced by inevi- table reformulation and omission processes derived from the technical constraints. 2.1 Theory to form: Lakof f and Leech Lakof f (1973) is one of the pioneers of politeness theory. She establishes a set of pragmatic rules of well-formedness, a prototype of politeness theory, and proposes that as the extension to the notion of grammatical rule, ‘we should like to have some kind of pragmatic rules, dictating whether an 8 Chapter 2 utterance is pragmatically well-formed...

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