Languages and the Media
Berlin 25-27 October, 2006
The Language of Television
Series
a study of predictability
Chris Taylor
University of Trieste
Talking Points
1. Film language
2. Levels of predictability
3. Translation (dubbing, subtitling)
Film language
• Starting from the premise that film language is
•
an artificial product “written to be spoken as if
not written” (Gregory, 1992), we can agree with
Marshall and Werndly (2002) that
“the only reason that characters talk to each
other in television texts is so that the viewer can
listen to them; not, as in real conversation, so
that they can listen to each other”,
APS
Thus film language consists of clear-cut cues and guided
discourse (cf. Ochs - planned and unplanned discourse).
The flow of images is created by film directors,
cameramen, set designers, etc. in the construction of an
artificial situation.
Similarly the language (and grammar) of film is a
scripted construct created by screenplay writers and
editors, altered by directors and actors, subsequently by
dubbing actors, subtitlers, etc. in the creation of an
“artificially produced situation” (APS)
Film language and genre
• The APS can also be identified in terms of
genre.
• The blanket expression ‘film genre’ brings
to mind such types as western, spy story,
comedy, etc.
• But films have their sub-genres and
genrelets.
Predictability
• And it is these genrelets that are of
interest in the tracking down of
predictability.
• E.g., telephone conversations,
presentations, mealtime dialogue, bar talk,
boy-girl exchanges, etc.
Intertextuality
• In genrelets such as telephone call protocols,
presentations, service encounters, etc. there is
usually little creative language use. The same
formulae are used over and over again, with the
same cues and the same response mechanisms.
Words and expressions are PRIMED (Hoey) to
appear in particular environments.
Hotel reception scene
The Gilmore Girls
•
•
•
•
•
CUT TO THE INDEPENDENCE INN
[Lorelai walks into the lobby and hands a key to a bellboy.]
LORELAI: Oh, here you go.
BELLBOY: Thanks.
[Lorelai walks to the front desk, where Michel is on the phone and
sorting mail]
• MICHEL: Independence Inn, Michel speaking. [pause] No, I'm sorry,
we're completely booked. [pause] We have a wedding party here.
[pause] No, there is really nothing I can do. [pause] Yes, I'm sure.
[pause] Positive. [pause] No, I don't have to look ma'am, I -[pause] Yes, of course I'll look.
• [Michel puts the phone down, continues to sort the mail, then picks
the phone back up.]
• MICHEL: No, I'm sorry, we're completely booked.
Translation Memory
At times the predictability is so
pronounced that an element of translation
memory technique, technologically aided
or otherwise, could prove useful.
At least the predictability factor should be
taken into account in order to save time
and particularly to ensure consistency.
Predictability and Translation
The three strategies of
NEUTRALISATION
LOCALISATION
FOREIGNISATION
can be associated with predictability levels
Predictability cline
High predictability (neutralise)
Medium predictability (localise)
Low predictability (foreignise)
Predictability cont.
But more or less predictable subgenres
and gernrelets can appear within a
predominantly high predictability or low
predictability film.
Predictability and Genre
There is a general correlation between
predictability and genre.
The more mundane the genre (many TV
series, soap operas, etc.), the more
predictable the dialogue.
The more serious/intellectual/highbrow
the genre, the less predictable the
dialogue.
More predictable genres – a case
study
The Gilmore Girls
132 episodes in 6 series
Desribed in the following terms:
“nice, warm, charming, feisty”
Features a single mother, her elitist parents, her
determined daughter, boyfriends etc.
Episodes
Series Two
Marriage on the way
Engagement party
Rethinking
The debutante’s ball
Like mother, like daughter
Love risks
Gilmore Girls One video
LORELAI: Well, actually, I came here for a reason.
Dad, would you mind sitting down for a minute?
RICHARD: You need money.
LORELAI: I have a situation.
RICHARD: You need money.
LORELAI: Dad, will you just please let me get this out, okay?
Um, Rory has been accepted to Chilton.
EMILY: Chilton? Oh, that's a wonderful school. It's only five minutes from here.
LORELAI: That's right, it is. She can start as early as Monday.
Um, the problem is that they want me to put down
an enrollment fee plus the first semester's tuition,
and I have to do that immediately or she loses her spot.
RICHARD: So, you need money.
LORELAI: Yeah. But it's not for me, it's for Rory.
And I fully intend to pay you back every cent. I don't ask for favors, you know that.
EMILY: Oh, yes, we know.
RICHARD: I'll get the checkbook.
LORELAI: Thank you. You have no idea. Thank you.
Translation - neutral
• L:
•
•
•
•
•
•
R:
L:
R:
L:
E:
L:
• R:
• L:
• E:
• R:
• L:
Bè, veramente, ho un motivo per essere qui. Papà, potresti sederti e starmi a
sentire?
Ti servono soldi.
Ho un problema.
Ti servono soldi.
Papà, per favore lasciami finire, OK? Rory è stata accettata alla Chilton.
Chilton? E’ un’ottima scuola. E’ a cinque minuti da qui.
Proprio così. Può cominciare già lunedì. Il problema è che vogliono che
paghi l’iscrizione e i corsi per il primo semestre a vogliono che lo faccia
subito, altrimenti Rory perderà il posto.
Quindi, ti servono soldi.
Sì. Ma non è per me, è per Rory. E intendo ripagarti ogni centesimo. Non
chiedo favori, lo sai.
Ah, sì, lo sappiamo.
Prendo il libretto degli assegni.
Grazie. Non hai idea. Grazie.
Gilmore Girls Two - video
[Rory starts to leave then hugs Lorelai again.]
RORY: I love you.
LORELAI: I love you.
[Rory leaves.]
LORELAI: My girl's going to Chilton
SOOKIE: Yeah. Rory's going to Chilton!
[As Lorelai leaves, Sookie starts a little dance and begins to sing.]
SOOKIE: Rory's going to Chilton! Rory's going to Chilton! Rory's going to Chilton!
Translation - localised
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
[Rory sta per partire poi abbraccia Lorelai di nuovo]
RORY: Ti voglio bene.
LORELAI: Ti voglio bene.
[Rory parte]
LORELAI: La mia bambina va a Chilton
SOOKIE: Sì. Rory va a Chilton!
[Menre Lorelai sta per uscire, Sookie comincia a ballare e
cantare]
• SOOKIE: Rory va a Chilton! Rory va a Chilton! Rory va a
Chilton!
Official translation
• R: Ti voglio bene
• L: anch’io tesoro. La mia Rory va alla
Chilton
Gilmore Girls Three - video
LANE: I know I’ve always dreamed that some day a guy would get me a really confusing
Czechoslovakian novel.
RORY: I think he’ll appreciate it.
LANE: A book sends the wrong message.
RORY: What are you talking about?
LANE: You have to look at what a gift says to the other person, not to you.
Remember two years ago, I got my mom that perfume?
RORY: Yeah.
LANE: Ok, to me that said, ‘Hey mom, you work hard, you deserve something fancy’.
Now to my mother, it said ‘Hey mom, here’s some smelly sex juice,
the kind I use to lure boys with’
and resulted in me being sent to Bible camp all summer.
RORY: Yeah but LANE: Just imagine that you actually gave Dean something really romantic,
and he gave you a football.
Your hypothetical romantic present is saying that you really, really like him.
And his present is saying ‘Hey man, let’s just be friends’.
RORY: And you’re saying that this book is LORELAI: Is a Czechoslovakian football, yes.
Translation
L: Ho sempre sognato che un giorno un ragazzo mi regalasse un romanzo cecoslovacco
incomprensibile.
R: Credo che gli farà piacere.
L: Un libro manda il messaggio sbagliato.
R: Cosa vuoi dire?
L: Devi pensare a ciò che il regalo significa per l’altra persona, non per te. Ti ricordi due
anni fa quando ho regalato quel profumo a mia madre?
R: Sì
L: Bè, per me quel regalo voleva dire “Mamma sei sempre che lavori, ti meriti qualcosa
di speciale”. Per mia madre invece voleva dire “Mamma eccoti un profumo lascivo
come quelli che uso per sedurre i ragazzi” e come ringraziamento mi ha spedito in un
Bible Camp estivo.
R: Sì, ma?
L: Prova a immaginare di regalare a Dean qualcosa di veramente romantico e che lui ti
regali un pallone da football. Il tuo ipotetico regalo romantico vuole dire che lui ti
piace davvero un sacco, mentre il suo significa “Guarda, restiamo solo amici”
R: Stai dicendo che il libro è….
L: E’ un pallone da football cecoslovacco, già.
Official translation
campeggio delle suore
pallone da football
Hey, bambola
The O.C.
• In the O.C. much of the dialogue is more
or less predictable American high school
chat. The register rarely changes, but one
character (Seth) deliberately speaks in a
sarcastic but linguistically sophisticated
way.
• Translation must take heed of idiolects.
The O.C.
• Kirsten: First day of school, are you excited? (Seth gives her a look) You know I ask
you questions in the hopes of eliciting an actual response.
Seth: I feel I convey more with a look (makes puppy dog eyes at her)
Kirsten: you look adorable!
Seth: no
Kirsten: cute?
Seth: no
Kirsten: dope?
Seth: no
Kirsten: RAD!
Seth: PLEASE, please this is so painful
The O.C. translation
• Kirsten: primo giorno di scuola, sei emozionato? Vedi, se ti faccio delle domande è
perché mi aspetto che tu mi dia delle risposte.
Seth: Il mio sguardo non è più eloquente?
•
Kirsten: Sei adorabile
Seth: No
Kirsten: Carino?
Seth: No
Kirsten: Spento?
Seth: No
Kirsten: Svanito!
Seth: PER FAVORE, mi metti in imbarazzo.
Less predictable genres in
translation
Even where the language transfer involves
some kind of semantic or pragmatic shift
(eg. bar protocols in English and Italian),
matches based on predictability can be
easily made.
But some genres, where cultural mores
are involved, prove troublesome.
At table
Buonissimo! Eccezionale! Sono la fine del mondo!!
(at regular intervals)
Da noi si usa solo aglio e olio.
Miles:
W:
Miles:
Just bring him an iceberg lettuce and mealy tomato wedge
smothered in French dressing
And for you?
Ham sandwich on stale rye bread lots of mayo easy on the
ham.
These expressions (not the words) are difficult to translate for the
simple reason that English/Italian people don’t say them.
Il Commissario Montalbano
(1) Caffè
Michela:
• Mimì:
• CM:
• Fazio:
• Donna:
(bevendo il caffè) Mhm! Sì!
(guardando Montalbano
versare il caffè) Ce n’è
magari pe’mmea?
.. Mi è venuto voglia di una
bella granatina di caffè
Ho portato il…
(beve l’ultimo sorso di caffè)
Il Commissario Montalbano
(2) Pasta con broccoli
• CM:
• Livia:
•
•
•
•
CM:
Livia:
CM:
Livia:
Sto mangiando la pasta con
broccoli, chi è che rompe…
Chi ti ha preparato la pasta con
broccoli? Scommetto Adelina?...
Sabato mattina prendo l’aereo e
vengo giù.
Sabato?
Sì, sarò a Vigato per l’ora di pranzo.
Ah, benissimo..ma, sei sicura?
Sicurissima. Ho già fatto il biglietto… Vai a
buttare quella pasta nella spazzatura!
Il Commissario Montalbano
(3) disturbance!
• Mimì:
• CM:
• Mimì:
• CM:
Ma che stavi mangiando.
No, no. Non ti preoccupare.
E allora t’ho disturbato…
E ti dico non ti preoccupare…
• CM:
Sto mangiando la pasta con
broccoli, chi è che rompe…
Montalbano video
Il Commissario Montalbano
(4) Spigole etc.
• C- Dunque oggi c’ho pe’ vossia un risotto a nevuro di
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
siccia ch’è megghio’ e na cassata.
M- Per me va bene, per lei?
B- Anche per me va bene.
M- Aggiudicato.
C- Ah, per secondo carissimo dottore Montalbano ci sono
delle spigole freschissime pescate stanotte oppure…
M- No, per me va bene le spigole senza oppure, per lei?
B- Anche per me va bene.
M- Aggiudicato.
Neutralisation
(1)
Caffè = coffee
(2)
Disturbance and seriousness elements translated
literally, regardless of audience perplexity.
(3)
Pasta con broccoli = pasta with broccoli
(4)
Spaghetti con sugo di ricci, risotto a nevuro di siccia,
na cassata, spigole freschissime pescate stanotte,
‘spaghetti’, ‘rice’, ‘cake’, ‘fish’.
Localisation
(1) Caffè must be rendered more English, ironically through the use of explicit
markers – cappucino, espresso, latte, etc. – depending on which of these is
considered the most universal.
(2) Elements of disturbance and seriousness may be changed or tempered.
(3) Pasta con broccoli may be changed to something more recognisably Italian
such as ‘spaghetti bolognese’ or ‘lasagne’. It depends on whether it can be
seen.
(4) Spaghetti con sugo di ricci, risotto a nevuro di siccia, na cassata, spigole
freschissime pescate stanotte, can be changed to recognisable
English/American dishes – ‘spaghetti with meatballs’, ‘sausages’, ‘ice cream’,
‘snapper’.
Foreignisation
(1) Caffè remains – its meaning is known and is always straight
‘espresso’.
(2) Pasta con broccoli is a leitmotif of the series and can be left as it is.
(3) The disturbance and seriousness factors are part of that mind set
that some of the audience will associate with Sicily and others will
not be aware of.
(4) Spaghetti con sugo di ricci, risotto a nevuro di siccia, na cassata,
spigole freschissime pescate stanotte, can be left and simply
understood as Italian dishes.
The Gilmore Girls – frequency
counts
• From watching any TV series one becomes
aware, consciously or unconsciously, of
certain lietmotifs, repeated patterns, or
more than usual frequency patterns.
Food and Beverages frequancies - Gilmore
Food & Beverages
Frequency (Coffe & co. excluded)
Episode n.
Env.1: Diner
Env.2: Inn
Env. 3:
Dinner
Env. 4:
Others
Total
(Font:Verdana 10)
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
13
4
4
7
11
9
15
\
\
26
12
13
\
1
\
\
13
\
30
12
1
23
24
36
52
\
17
\
35
\
\
4
20
\
20
5
5
\
1
30
1
\
18
\
26
\
\
23
\
14
9
9
4
\
\
11
9
16
\
30
4
29
\
21
9
9
27
24
33
63
15
52
16
20
37
22
77
7
35
42
27
9
10
34
76
37
75
86
35
82
78
64
61
51
40
70
22
109
21
56
55
58
73
52
35
31
33
32
32
31
34
33
32
41
32
36
36
32
38
31
32
33
37
40
39
35
Environment 1: Luke’s Diner
Environment 2: Independence Inn / Kitchen
Environment 3: Gilmore’s house / Friday Night Dinner
Environment 4: Others (Lorelai’s house, Doose Market, Stars Hollow, School, etc)
Total pages
Coffee frequencies - Gilmore
“Coffee”
Frequency: Coffee, Espresso, and Decaf
Frequency
Episode n.
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
Statistic Count
Frequency ≥ 7  11 out of 21
Frequency ≤ 4  6 out of 21
10 + 1
10 +1
3
5
10
5
7
16
2
8
2
5
8
2
4
10
6
3
8
8
9
Total pages
(Font:Verdana 10)
31
33
32
32
31
34
33
32
41
32
36
36
32
38
31
32
33
37
40
39
35
Cf. British National Corpus - coffee
BNC (100,000,000 words)
Coffee – 6,286 occurrences
Once every 16,000 words.
Gilmore Girls (20 episodes) 150,000 words
Coffee – 160 occurrences
Once every 1,000 words
BNC spoken corpus
BNC spoken corpus (10,000,000 words)
Coffee – 939 occurrences
Once every 10,000 words.
Gilmore Girls (20 episodes) 150,000 words
Coffee – 160 occurrences
Once every 1,000 words
Sign of APS
The figures merely show that the series ‘The Gilmore
Girls’ contains a much higher than average use of the
word coffee (and other foodstuffs).
This confirms an intuitive impression, suggesting that (a)
the context governs language use but also (b) that a
level of artificiality would seem to be confirmed.
The translator must consider whether this context driven
usage should be foreignised (left as it is to reflect
American youngsters’ habits), or localised in some way
(perhaps tempered to local levels of acceptance).
Conclusion 1
WHERE THE TEXT IS HIGHLY PREDICTABLE
there is a place in film translation (in the
broadest sense), in subtitling but also in
dubbing, for the judicious use of some kind of
translation memory tool (eg, Atril’s Dejà vu).
Although this would require very careful editing it
could save a lot of time and provide much
needed consistency
Conclusion 2
WHERE TEXTS ARE NOT VERY PREDICTABLE
translation choices may lie between foreignisation,
localisation and standardisation.
The choice will depend on such factors as the
‘prestige’ of the film or given audience tastes.
Conclusion 3
WHERE TEXTS ARE GOVERNED BY CULTURAL
MORES
predictability can be largely discounted, firstly in
the patterns of the source language, and
particularly in translation.
Here the translator is on his/her own in gauging to
what extent the audience is attuned to the mind
set of the source text culture.
Conclusion 4
• Practically all films (or TV series, or
documentaries, or advertisements, or
cartoons…) will contain stretches covered
by conclusions 1, 2 or 3. The special skill
of the translator lies also in identifying
these stretches and treating them
accordingly.
Interview - video
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