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Opera Surtitling as a Special Case of Audiovisual Translation

Towards a Semiotic and Translation Based Framework for Opera Surtitling


Anna Rędzioch-Korkuz

Despite the growing interest in various translation activities, there is still a potentially vast area of research. The statement may be true for opera surtitling, which was introduced in the nineteen eighties and has been used in opera companies worldwide ever since. This book aims to offer a theoretical framework for opera surtitling, based on several factors, including the semiotics of opera, relevance theory, or fundamental rules of audiovisual translation. The author provides a more illuminating insight by means of practical research into surtitling in Poland, which proves that surtitling is not as simple a task as it may seem, demanding a multimodal and multifaceted analysis of an audiovisual complex and requiring a constant struggle to guarantee optimal relevance of the surtitled performance.

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Chapter Six: Towards a Theory of Surtitling


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Chapter Six:  Towards a Theory of Surtitling

6.1  Relevance Theory and Surtitling

The last chapter of the book will be an attempt at formulating a theory of surtitling. Even though it will present a number of recommendations, it should not be seen only as a set of prescriptive rules of good surtitling practice. It may be seen as a tentative list of problems or aspects that should be taken into consideration in the process of drafting surtitles. The theory will be developed on the basis of the previously drawn conclusions, especially the ones from the previous chapter, as well as the cooperative principle put forward by Grice (1975), relevance theory by Sperber and Wilson (1993), and a number of translation theories, including the postulates introduced by Chesterman (1997), Gutt (1991 and 1992), Nida (1964; cf. Nida and Taber 1969), Reiss and Vermeer (1984) and Toury (1995).

In order to adequately understand the nature of surtitling, it seems advisable to adopt a tripartite perspective suggested by Toury (1995), which consists in analysing the relations between the function, process and product in translation. The discussion will be continued by mentioning other criteria or factors under scrutiny. It will be helpful, then, to quote after Nida (1964), who at one point stated that translation can be basically determined by three factors, namely the message and its nature, the purpose of the author and translator as well as the nature of the target audience....

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