How metaphors are rendered in subtitles

Jan Pedersen

Abstract

Metaphors have been thoroughly studied as translation problems in recent decades. However, they are still under-researched in the subfield of audiovisual translation. This is strange since this mode of translation, particularly subtitling, has very special conditions which complicate the translating of metaphors, such as the interplay between dialogue, image and subtitles, as well as severe time and space constraints. This paper investigates how metaphors in the British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister were subtitled into Swedish. The results show that subtitlers treat metaphors as an important language feature, less prone to omission than other features. Furthermore, monocultural metaphors, which are not shared between cultures, are subtitled using more strategies than transcultural ones. Metaphors are also subtitled differently depending on the degree of entrenchment. Typically for metaphor translation, there is a loss of metaphor force, but more research is needed to ascertain whether this is media-specific or a general translation effect of growing standardization.

Keywords
Publication history
Table of contents

In 1976, Menachem Dagut found metaphor translation to be an underexplored area. He would have been pleased to find how much exploration has been carried out since, not least by such prominent scholars as Van den Broeck (1981), Newmark (1988), Toury (1995), Lindqvist (2002), Dickins (2005), and Schäffner and Shuttleworth (2013). However, metaphor translation remains underexplored in the fast-growing subdiscipline of audiovisual translation (AVT), even though some recent studies have begun to address this (e.g., Iranmanesh and Kaur 2014; Schmidt 2014; Iranmanesh 2014; Pedersen 2015). The relative scarcity of studies is in a way understandable, AVT being a fairly young field, but it is also extraordinary in that AVT, and particularly subtitling, operates under very special conditions. In a previous article (Pedersen 2015), I investigated the interplay between the dialogue, image and translation, which is always an issue in subtitling, and Iranmanesh (2014) tested the application of cognitive schemes on metaphors in subtitling, but more remains to uncover about this intriguing topic. The present paper sets out to answer the following questions:

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References

Primary sources

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Series 1

Episode 1 The Grand Design” Subtitled by Lotta Almqvist No date
Episode 2 The Ministerial Broadcast” Subtitled by Ansis Grinsbergs No date
Episode 3 The Smoke Screen” Subtitled by Eva Karin Swenson No date
Episode 4 The Key” Subtitled by Annika Brandt No date
Episode 5 A Real Partnership” Subtitled by Annika Brandt No date
Episode 6 A Victory for Democracy” Subtitled by Maria Lyngstam Raud No date
Episode 7 The Bishop’s Gambit” Subtitled by John Åhlén No date
Episode 8 One of Us” Subtitled by Lotta Rossi No date

Series 2

Episode 1, “Official SecretsSubtitled by Rickard Levin 2001.Google Scholar
Episode 2, “Man OverboardSubtitled by Rickard Levin 2001.Google Scholar
Episode 3, “A Diplomatic Incident.” Subtitled by Fredrik Krappman 2001.Google Scholar
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Episode 5, “Power to the PeopleSubtitled by Marie Ekenstav 2001.Google Scholar
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Episode 7, “The National Education ServiceSubtitled by Maria Grimstad 2001.Google Scholar
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