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Subtitling on the Cusp of its Futures

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Abstract

Subtitling today is facing considerable opportunities and considerable challenges, in practice and theory. This applies with particular acuteness to interlingual film subtitling, the written target language rendition(s) of source text speech in films that is the focus in this chapter (henceforth ‘film subtitling’ or ‘subtitling’ for short).

The practice itself is approaching its hundredth year. The academic discipline is young in research terms, barely twenty five years old. It had been steadily firming up its foundations and developing its credentials, as a branch of Audiovisual Translation and within Translation Studies. Since the mid-90s, it had been busy identifying domains of concern, evolving methodologies, developing greater rigour in research, finding interdisciplinary partners to help it come to terms effectively with the multimodal nature of subtitling. In the midst of all that came the onset of fansubbing, and with it the ‘butterfly effect’ that has underpinned the explosion of amateur practices generally - subtitling by the people for the people. Together with its catalyst, the spectacular technological developments ongoing since then on a global scale, this explosion has radically changed what is at stake in subtitling. One of the most momentous changes for the practice since its inception may well turn out to be that technology has put it in the hands of the general public, literally at their fingertips, with the opportunity to shift from a passive role as viewers to active and activist roles as prosumers - producers and distributors of their own edited materials (Díaz Cintaz 2013: 273, Pérez González 2014). There is no aspect of subtitling, in practice or theory, that has not been and will not be affected by this phenomenon and its implications. Its long-term significance was heralded by a handful of scholars with early ‘insights into the butterfly effect of globalization on audiovisual translation’ (Pérez González 2006 and above). The extent to which it would rock the foundations of subtitling even before they were fully established has only more recently begun to been more fully appreciated.

The aim of this chapter is to locate film subtitling at this crucial juncture between its recent past as a maturing practice and a young discipline, and the unchartred territories of its future, with the questions that it compels the field to revisit and the new ones that it raises. Technological development is a main drive in the review of aspects and issues of subtitling in this perspective, as a platform to project in what lies ahead, but also to revisit the past and reassess its achievements, and its oversights. There are urgent themes to be addressed and re-addressed at this interface of past and future, and of professional and amateur practice in film subtitling:

•the creative specificities and potential of subtitling and subtitles
•the question of quality in the sharing of space by professionals and amateurs
•the sociocultural aspects of film subtitling and linguistic and cultural impact in increasingly cross-and intercultural global contexts.

They will serve as the canvas for the three main sections that will make up the chapter and cover between them aspects and issues standard in reviews of the practice and the field, from these distinct angles:

1)Processes and evolutions, constraints and opportunities
2)Means and modes of meaning in subtitling
3)Research and methodologies

Details

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Audiovisual Translation
EditorsLuis Pérez-González
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter3
ISBN (Print)9781138859524
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2018

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