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Agost, Rosa, Orero, Pilar & Di Giovanni, Elena (Eds.). (2012). Multidisciplinarity in Audiovisual Translation. Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante

Book review by Elisa Ghia

As its title suggests, the volume Multidisciplinarity in Audiovisual Translation, edited by Rosa Agost, Pilar Orero, and Elena Di Giovanni, is a collection of papers tackling several issues in audiovisual translation from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. The volume underlines how essential a multidisciplinary approach is in the study of multi-layered and semiotically complex products such as audiovisual texts.

The contributions included in the book can be grouped into different sections according to the audiovisual component (e.g., visuals, music, dialogue, subtitles) and the specific audiovisual translation mode (subtitling, dubbing, audiodescription) they focus on.

The first three works focus on the role of a number of verbal and nonverbal meaning-making tools in cinematic products as means to shape the overall message of the audiovisual text. Şerban deals with multilingualism and its treatment in audiovisual texts as motivated by the cinematic product itself and its artistic meaning. The contribution by Maszerowska is centered on the use of light and contrast patterns as a relevant nonverbal device to construct meaning in films, while Lachat Leal’s article discusses the general key role of the visual component and the ways in which it fulfills a narrative role and affects the audience’s perception of a film. The translator of a film product is assigned a prominent mediating task, in trying to preserve the original perceptual schemata and trigger their reactivation in the target audience.

The following contribution by Arnáiz Uzquiza is the first to shift the focus on subtitling. The article specifically deals with subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing as a distinct form of subtitling, for which a set of audience-specific practices is outlined. Later moving on to standard interlingual subtitling, McClarty reports instead on the emergence of a creative trend in subtitling, with subtitles which do not only serve as translation devices, but also act as creative tools in interaction with soundtrack, scenes and camera movements in the film.

The following two papers concentrate on the dubbing of audiovisual products from a source to a target language. Martínez Tejerina focuses on the translation of visually grounded puns in dubbing, bringing as an exemplary case the dubbing of scenes from the Marx Brothers’ films where humour is concurrently created through the verbal and the nonverbal dimension. In the corpus, a set of translation strategies is identified and exemplified at work – entailing a different extent of preservation or loss of the original comic effect. The contribution by Romero Fresco is centered on a different aspect of dubbed dialogue, namely its naturalness. Specifically, the paper deals with the degree of naturalness observed in the translation of a set of pragmatic markers from English into Spanish, adopting a corpus-based approach.

The following papers focus on audiodescription, and adopt different multimodal approaches to account for its main features and contexts of use. In the first paper, Vercauteren deals with content selection and the expression of time in audiodescription from a narratological perspective. By considering the multiple time dimensions involved in story-telling, it is possible to better account for the complexity of the work performed by audiodescribers and fully understand their selection of details and information from the original film. Igareda’s article tackles another issue audiodescribers face, namely the treatment of musical inserts. Whether audiodescription is to be superimposed on musical excerpts is the main concern of the paper, which subsequently explores a corpus of audiodescribed films and their handling of music. The same concern is shared by Remael in relation to the treatment of sound effects, which play a key role in films and may pose challenges to audiodescribers. Both contributions advocate the need for an audiodescription that effectively complements with the soundtrack.

In the following contribution, Neves considers a different application of audiodescription, namely its use to make artistic products accessible to visually impaired people. The author suggests that multisensory techniques be used, including the combination of audiodescription with tactile experiences, so as to grant the blind audience a more thorough and richer experience. Lastly, the article by Orero and Vilaró focuses on how to handle minute visual details in audiodescription, adopting an experimental approach based on the administration of questionnaires and eye-tracking tests. Results of both tests and questionnaires testify to how important it is to consider the perceptual component in audiodescription – and how relevant perceptual research can be to audiodescribers.

Morettini’s article still has its focus on accessibility, but shifts the attention to intralingual subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The contribution reports on the results of a questionnaire designed to provide a snapshot of the hearing impaired population in Italy; once again, consideration of the target audience of audiovisual translation is assigned an essential role in the process of subtitle design.

Accessibility is also a key issue in the subsequent contribution by Jiménez Hurtado, Seibel and Gallego, who reflect on how audiovisual translation and its basic tenets can be applied to issues in museums’ accessibility by different categories of users. From these reflections stem new forms of multimodal accessibility, as well as new professional profiles for translators and interpreters.

The last paper in the collection, by Costales, shifts the attention to video games and the prevailing translation strategies used in their adaptation from a language and culture into another. The translation of video games constitutes an emerging area in audiovisual translation, and is in continuous evolution due to the ever-growing development of new forms of interactivity in video games.

The collection brings an innovative contribution to the field of audiovisual translation, as it is able to effectively gather together studies centered on a wide range of the many semiotic components which make up an audiovisual text and contribute to shaping its meaning. The volume shows its readers how the field of audiovisual translation, owing to its primary concern with multimodality, lends itself to explorations from multiple angles, and opens up new and promising areas of study and research in interaction and complementation with long-established disciplines such as narratology, film studies, and perceptual psychology.

October 28, 2013
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