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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 6 - Conclusions and Further Implications 217


Chapter 6 Conclusions and Further Implications 6.1 Summary of the aims and methods of the study This research proposed at the outset to fulfil three objectives: (1) to inves- tigate the presence in subtitles of indicators of face management in the source film, (2) to investigate the reception of and response to the face management features identified under objective 1, and (3) to consider the significance of the findings for AVT theory. To achieve these objectives, I reviewed the two theoretical fields that are pertinent to the focus of this research: face management and subtitling. After examination of face man- agement theories in the West and in the Far East, and for the purpose of data analysis in this research, I argued that a Composite Model of Face Management should be established, drawn from the strengths of Brown and Levinson’s (1987) face model and Spencer-Oatey’s (2000) rapport management theory, taking into account cultural dif ferences between volition and discernment. The review of studies on subtitling, which was anchored in the research of face management, discussed the nature of subtitling, its technical con- straints, and inevitable reformulations and omissions in order to accom- modate the constraints which could in turn impact on the representation of face negotiation. Following the establishment of the theoretical framework of the Composite Model, three English language film sequences subtitled into Chinese and three Chinese language sequences with subtitles in Eng- lish were selected as the research corpus and discussions were carried out on the major methodological...

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