The pragmatics of audiovisual translation: Voices from within in film subtitling

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This article focuses on film subtitles, as a distinctive instantiation of cinematic discourse and a distinctive form of translation. Like dubbing and audiovisual translation more broadly, interlingual subtitling is increasingly recognised as a meaning-making mode and language variety in its own right, so far usually with application to single language pairs. In the pilot study reported here, the representational potential of subtitling is approached comparatively across different languages, with a dual objective: to further enquiry into the distinctiveness and creativity of subtitling as a mode of expression, and to make a start on inspecting how different languages may harness their own specificities to the demands and opportunities of interlingual subtitling. The work has drawn on (Romance) French, Italian, Spanish and (Germanic) English and German subtitle data, all from Lonergan's 2016 feature film in US English Manchester by the Sea. Representation of source dialogues is explored qualitatively across these languages from a broad cross-cultural pragmatics perspective, in a subset of scenes from across the film and with particular focus on functional pragmatic markers. The study is exploratory at this stage, but part of a broader agenda intended to increase our understanding of audiovisual translation as intercultural mediation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-330
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date10 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Film subtitling
  • intercultural mediation
  • expressive capacity
  • pragmatic indexing
  • Romance and Germanic languages

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