From Translation Studies and audiovisual translation to media accessibility: Some research trends

Aline Remael, Nina Reviers and Reinhild Vandekerckhove

Recent developments in Translation Studies and translation practice have not only led to a profusion of approaches, but also to the development of new text forms and translation modes. Media Accessibility, particularly audio description (AD) and subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH), is an example of such a ‘new’ mode. SDH has been evolving quickly in recent decades and new developments such as interlingual SDH and live subtitling with speech recognition bring it closer to established forms of translation and interpreting. On the one hand, interlingual SDH reintroduces Jakobson’s (1959) ‘translation proper’ while the use of speech recognition has led to the creation of a hybrid form that has affinities with both subtitling and interpreting. Audio description, for its part, cannot even be fitted into Jakobson’s ‘intersemiotic translation’ model since it involves translation from images into words. Research into AD is especially interesting since it rallies methods from adjacent disciplines, much in the same way that Holmes ([1972] 1988) described TS when it was a fledgling discipline. In 2008, Braun set out a research agenda for AD and the wealth of topics and research approaches dealt with in her article illustrate the immense complexity of this field and the work still to be done. Although AD and SDH research have developed at different paces and are concerned with different topics, converging trends do appear. Particularly the role of technology and the concept of multimodality seem to be key issues. This article aims to give an overview of current research trends in both these areas. It illustrates the possibilities of technology-driven research – particularly popular in SDH and live-subtitling research – while at the same time underlining the value of individual, human-driven approaches, which are still the main ‘modus operandi’ in the younger discipline of AD where much basic research is still required.

Table of contents

Translation Studies (TS) has gone through many turns since Holmes presented his seminal outline on “The Name and Nature of Translation Studies” in 1972. Today the ‘technological turn’ appears to be dominant in TS, but research foci and their related research methods and questions are, to a large extent, accumulative phenomena. This accruement of approaches goes hand in hand with an increasing number of variables, mostly connected to digitization and the proliferation of target readers or audiences with different requirements. One central feature of this evolution is the ‘explosion’ of the boundaries of text (written and/or spoken) and the related ongoing development of new text forms and (their) translation modes.

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