Audiovisual translation as orchestration of multimodal synergies: Expendability of interjections in intralingual film subtitling
Harbin Institute of Technology
This study explores the coordination between subtitles and other semiotic resources in films, from within a systemic
functional semiotic framework. The paper focuses on the subtitling of interjections (e.g., ‘oh’, ‘wow’, ‘yay’) to examine how subtitles are
synthesized in films with respect to the presence of facial expressions and/or bodily gestures which might be perceived as conveying similar
meanings. The analysis of multiple versions of intralingual subtitles of two English-language films shows that the seemingly random omission
of soundtrack interjections from subtitles is patterned to a considerable degree – those interjections which are concurrent with
semiotically correlated actions were frequently omitted. The findings suggest that subtitling is a complex process involving synergy between
subtitles and other semiotic resources, which calls for interdisciplinary research integrating translation, multimodality, and
The study of audiovisual translation (AVT), which deals with multimodal texts, has naturally been closely aligned with multimodal approaches (e.g., Chaume 1997; Taylor 2003, 2004, 2013, 2016; Gambier 2006; Perego 2009; Burczynska 2012). This article contributes to the growing body of AVT research, and explores how subtitles are coordinated with other semiotic resources in films. This study focuses on interjections (e.g., ‘oh’, ‘wow’, ‘yay’, ‘aha’, ‘ouch’, ‘oops’, ‘hurray’), and examines the English intralingual subtitling of soundtrack interjections with respect to the presence of concurrent facial expressions and bodily gestures. For instance, it might be possible that where the visual shows a facial expression of raised eyebrows and widened eyes and mouth, the concurrent spoken interjection ‘wow’ might be considered expendable for subtitling. The assumption is that the meaning conveyed via the facial expression is analogous, or at least related, to the meaning conveyed via the utterance (in this case, ‘wow’), which, according to Gottlieb (1994, 273) may be regarded as a case of “intersemiotic redundancy.” This study interprets this hypothesis of intersemiotic redundancy from a systemic functional semiotic perspective, and suggests that intralingual film subtitling can be conceptualized as a process by which subtitlers orchestrate multimodal complementarities between their subtitles and other semiotic resources, such as facial expressions and bodily gestures.
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