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Dealing with Difference in Audiovisual Translation

Subtitling Linguistic Variation in Films

Series:

Claire Ellender

Subtitling films in another language becomes especially complex when the original language deviates from its standard form. Films that feature non-standard pronunciation, dialects or other varieties of language, especially when juxtaposed with more standard uses, are said to display «linguistic variation». As language use is central to characters’ identities and to a film’s plot, it is essential to retain the source language (SL) specificity as fully as possible in the target language (TL) subtitles so the target audience can experience the film as authentically as possible. Given its considerable difficulty, subtitling in this manner is often advised against, avoided or, when attempted, subjected to considerable criticism.
This book focuses on a collection of British and French films selected for the range of approaches that they adopt in portraying linguistic variation. Each chapter explores the challenges posed by the subtitling of such linguistic difference in the given films and the corresponding solutions offered by their subtitlers. Drawing on these findings and referring to contemporary thinking in the field of translation studies, this book argues that with insight and skill, linguistic variation can be preserved in film subtitles.
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Conclusion

← 170 | 171 →Conclusion

Extract

uses a series of four tables. Driven by Trudgill’s definition of dialect (1996: 3; 2008: 8) (cf. Introduction), each table is nevertheless sufficiently flexible to incorporate the features of the various language varieties which are present in the films concerned, but which may not all be fully classed as ‘dialect’. The four tables are thus entitled: i) Accent / Pronunciation; ← 172 | 173 → ii) Grammar; iii) Vocabulary; iv) Juxtaposition of Language Varieties. These tables are presented as a collection and immediately follow the present Conclusion. The text-based, functionalist findings contained in the four tables will now be expanded upon.

Examination of the ways in which the non-standard and contrasting accents / pronunciation which feature in seven English-language and French-language films have been subtitled into French or English reveals that subtitlers tend to adopt one of two broad approaches. Either they standardize SL pronunciation in the TL, which constitutes a TL-oriented approach, or they attempt to preserve non-standard SL accents in their TL subtitles; such a SL-oriented approach serves to preserve SL colour in their TT.

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