The translation of wordplay in interlingual subtitling
A study of <i>Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis</i> and its English subtitles
It is frequently said that humor does not travel well, and wordplay, which is inseparably connected to humor, poses particular problems for the translator as it is intrinsically linked to the source language and culture, and consequently is often described as untranslatable. The translator’s task is further complicated when instances of wordplay are encountered in audiovisual texts due to the constrained and semiotic nature of the medium. The aim of this paper is to examine the translation strategies applied to wordplay in the English subtitles of the French film Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis [Boon 2008]. To do this, instances of wordplay in the source text and the target text were classified according to the typology of wordplay as proposed by Delabastita (1996), and subsequently analyzed using the General Theory of Verbal Humor (GTVH) (Attardo and Raskin 1991) in order to contrast the differences between source text and target text instances of wordplay. The findings show the trends in the application of translation strategies and demonstrate that GTVH, albeit with some modifications, is a useful analytical tool in the context of audiovisual translation in that it could show how the puns evolved in translation and therefore give a better understanding of wordplay to aid the choice of translation strategy. As long as a narrow view of equivalence is avoided, this study demonstrates that the translation of wordplay is possible even within the polysemiotic structures of audiovisual texts.
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