Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 21, 2019

Subtitles and cinematic meaning-making: Interlingual subtitles as textual agents

Thomas C. Messerli ORCID logo
From the journal Multilingua

Abstract

This theoretical paper adopts the point of view of the audience of subtitled films and outlines a theory of subtitles as communicative agents within the participation structures of film reception. Based on examples from three Swiss fiction films – Heidi (2015), Heimatland (2015) and Der Goalie bin ig (2014) – the following communicative effects are found and illustrated: uniformity, authorisation, foregrounding, aestheticisation, foreignisation. These effects are conceptualised in terms of Constitutive Communication theory and textual agency (Cooren. 2004. Textual agency: How texts do things in organizational settings. Organization 11(3). 373–393. doi:10.1177/1350508404041998), which describe that by communicating with audiences, subtitles animate into being other participants in film discourse and contribute to what viewers take away in terms of characters, stories, the cultural aspects they represent and the source culture(s) from which the text is perceived to communicate.

Funding statement: This work was supported by Swiss Association of University Teachers of English, Grant Number: SAUTE Travel Award.

Appendix. Transcription conventions

//Line break in two-line subtitles
italicsItalics in subtitles
00:00:00Start time of the subtitle, rounded to the next full second

References

Baldry, Anthony & Paul J. Thibault. 2006. Multimodal transcription and text: A multimedia toolkit and coursebook. London: Equinox.Search in Google Scholar

Bateman, John A. & Karl-Heinrich Schmidt. 2013. Multimodal film analysis: How films mean. New York: Routledge.10.4324/9780203128220Search in Google Scholar

Brock, Alexander. 2015. Participation frameworks and participation in televised sitcom, candid camera and stand-up comedy. In Marta Dynel & Jan Chovanec (eds.), Participation in public and social media interactions, 27–47. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/pbns.256.02bro. https://benjamins.com/catalog/pbns.256.02bro.Search in Google Scholar

Bubel, Claudia M. 2006. The linguistic construction of character relations in TV drama: Doing friendship in sex and the city. Universität des Saarlandes. http://scidok.sulb.uni-saarland.de/volltexte/2006/598/pdf/Diss_Bubel_publ.pdf.Search in Google Scholar

Bucholtz, Mary & Kira Hall. 2005. Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies 7(4–5). 585–614. doi:10.1177/1461445605054407.Search in Google Scholar

Burger, Harald. 1984. Sprache der Massenmedien. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110855913Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Herbert H. 1996. Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511620539Search in Google Scholar

Cooren, François. 2004. Textual agency: How texts do things in organizational settings. Organization 11(3). 373–393. doi:10.1177/1350508404041998.Search in Google Scholar

Cooren, François. 2010. Action and agency in dialogue: Passion, incarnation and ventriloquism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/ps.4.3.07ita.Search in Google Scholar

Cooren, François. 2012. Communication theory at the center: Ventriloquism and the communicative constitution of reality. Journal of Communication 62(1). 1–20. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01622.x.Search in Google Scholar

Desilla, Louisa. 2012. Implicatures in film: Construal and functions in Bridget Jones romantic comedies. Journal of Pragmatics 44(1). 30–53. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2011.10.002.Search in Google Scholar

Desilla, Louisa. 2014. Reading between the lines, seeing beyond the images: An empirical study on the comprehension of implicit film dialogue meaning across cultures. Translator 20(2). Routledge. 194–214. doi:10.1080/13556509.2014.967476.Search in Google Scholar

Díaz-Cintas, Jorge & Aline Remael. 2007. Audiovisual translation: Subtitling. London: Routledge. doi:10.1075/target.22.2.16gam.Search in Google Scholar

Dynel, Marta. 2011. “You talking to me?” The viewer as a ratified listener to film discourse. Journal of Pragmatics 43(6). 1628–1644. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.016.Search in Google Scholar

Fillmore, Charles J. 2006. Frame semantics. In Dirk Geeraerts (ed.), Cognitive linguistics: Basic readings, 373–400. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110199901.373Search in Google Scholar

Genette, Gerard. 1997. Paratexts: Thresholds of interpretation. Literature, culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511549373Search in Google Scholar

Gottlieb, Henrik. 1994. Subtitling: Diagonal translation. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 2(1). 101–121. doi:10.1080/0907676X.1994.9961227.Search in Google Scholar

Gregory, Michael. 1967. Aspects of varieties differentiation. Journal of Linguistics 3(2). 177–198.10.1017/S0022226700016601Search in Google Scholar

Guillot, Marie-Noëlle. 2012. Stylisation and representation in subtitles: Can less be more? Perspectives 20(4). 479–494. doi:10.1080/0907676X.2012.695379.Search in Google Scholar

Guillot, Marie-Noëlle. 2016. Cross-cultural pragmatics and audiovisual translation. Target 28(2). 288–301. doi:10.1075/target.28.2.09gui.Search in Google Scholar

Guillot, Marie-Noëlle. 2017. Subtitling and dubbing in telecinematic text. In Miriam A. Locher & Andreas H. Jucker (eds.), Handbooks of pragmatics: Pragmatics of fiction, 397–424. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110431094-013.Search in Google Scholar

Hatim, Basil & Ian Mason. 1997. The translator as communicator. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Kozloff, Sarah. 2000. Overhearing Film Dialogue. Berkeley: University of California Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kress, Gunther & Theo Van Leeuwen. 2001. Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Edward Arnold.Search in Google Scholar

Lenz, Pedro. 2013. Naw much of a talker (Donald McLaughlin, trans.). Glasgow: Freight Books.Search in Google Scholar

Messerli, Thomas C. 2016. Extradiegetic and character laughter as markers of humorous intentions in the sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Journal of Pragmatics 95. 79–92. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2015.12.009.Search in Google Scholar

Messerli, Thomas C. 2017a. Participation structure in fictional discourse: Authors, scriptwriters, audiences and characters. In Miriam A. Locher & Andreas H. Jucker (eds.), Pragmatics of fiction. Handbooks of pragmatics, Vol. 12, 25–54. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110431094-002.Search in Google Scholar

Messerli, Thomas C. 2017b. Sitcom humour as ventriloquism. Lingua 197. 16–33. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2017.05.006. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2017.05.006.Search in Google Scholar

O’Sullivan, Carol. 2011. Translating popular film. Translating popular film. Houn: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9780230317543.Search in Google Scholar

Piazza, Roberta, Monika Bednarek & Fabio Rossi. 2011. Introduction: Analysing telecinematic discourse. In Roberta Piazza, Monika Bednarek & Fabio Rossi (eds.), Telecinematic discourse: Approaches to the language of films and television series, 1–17. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.10.1075/pbns.211Search in Google Scholar

Remael, Aline. 2003. Mainstream narrative film dialogue and subtitling: A case study of Mike Leigh’s “Secrets & Lies” (1996). Translator 9(2). 225–247. doi:10.1080/13556509.2003.10799155.Search in Google Scholar

Robinson, Doug. 1998. 22 theses on translation. Journal of Translation Studies 2. 97–117. http://home.olemiss.edu/~djr/pages/writer/articles/html/22theses.html.Search in Google Scholar

Short, Mick H. 1981. Discourse analysis and the analysis of drama. Applied Linguistics 2(2). 180–201.10.1093/applin/2.2.180Search in Google Scholar

Spyri, Johanna. 1880. Heidi’s Lehr- und Wanderjahre. Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes.Search in Google Scholar

Ulrych, Margherita. 2000. Domestication and foreignisation in film translation. In Christopher Taylor (ed.), Tradurre il Cinema, 127–144. Trieste: University of Trieste. doi:10.1556/Acr.13.2012.1.7. http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84861064588&partnerID=tZOtx3y1.Search in Google Scholar

Van Dijk, Teun A. 2008. Discourse and context: A sociocognitive approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511481499Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2019-08-21
Published in Print: 2019-09-25

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston