Subtitling’s cross-cultural expressivity put to the test: A cross-sectional study of linguistic and cultural representation across Romance and Germanic languages

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This article focuses on linguistic and cultural representation in AVT as a medium of intercultural literacy. It has two objectives: it puts to the test increasingly accepted assumptions about AVT modalities’ distinctive meaning potential and expressive capacity (e.g. Guillot 2016a, 2017 for subtitling), with a case study of communicative practices in their representation, via AVT, in subtitles across Romance and Germanic languages. The second objective is to make a start on a neglected question to date, by considering, concurrently, the respective potential for representation of different types of languages, Indo-European in the first instance, in different pair configurations.
The study applies to (Romance) French, Italian, Spanish and (Germanic) English and German and uses a cross-cultural pragmatics framework to explore representation, per se and comparatively across the languages represented in the main data, Lonnergan’s 2016 feature film Manchester by the Sea. Data is approached qualitatively from a target text end in the first instance and primarily, in a subset of scenes from across the film. Quantitative analysis is used complementarily for diagnostic purposes or as a complementary source of evidence, with initial focus on types of features identified in earlier studies as a locus of stylised representation in subtitling (e.g. pronominal address, greetings, thanking) with evidence of distinctive pragmatic indexing (Guillot 2017).
The study is a pilot study and is largely exploratory at this stage,but is part of a broader endeavour to inform debates about, and build up the picture of, AVT as cross-cultural mediation and, ultimately, promote our understanding of films in translation’s societal impact.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages24
Issue number5
Early online date21 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2019


  • Subtitling
  • linguistic and cultural representation
  • expressive capacity
  • Romance and Germanic languages

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