Multimodality and audiovisual translation

Christopher John Taylor

Table of contents

Multimodality or “the use of several semiotic modes in the design of a semiotic product or event” (Kress & Van Leeuwen 2001: 20) is not a new field of study in that everything is to some extent multimodal, but in the modern world, archetypal multimodal texts such as films, television programmes and websites, have greatly broadened the scope of such studies. The term ‘semiotic mode’ has been variously labelled as ‘semiotic modality’, ‘semiotic resource’, etc. by different authors, but in this article for the sake of clarity the term mode will be used throughout. The ever-growing importance of multimodality concerns practically all disciplines and, by extension, the field of translation. In particular, research in Audiovisual translation would seem by its very nature to be dependent on multimodality studies, and a limited number of scholars have in fact ventured into this field (Baldry 2000; Taylor 2003, 2004; Gambier 2006; Perego 2009; Burczynska 2012). The opposite perspective, that is the role of translation in multimodality studies seems, on the other hand, to have attracted little or no interest. The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis (2009), an authoritative 340-page volume on the state of the art of multimodality, does not even mention translation in the index. It would therefore seem to fall on audiovisual translators themselves to seek and find the keys to unlock the potential of multimodal analysis in the service of the translation of screen products.

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