The Multimodality of Film, the Monomodality of Subtitling. A Reception Study

Sara Ramos Pinto
University of Leeds, uk

In parallel with the development of different types of audiovisual media and products, subtitling has experienced an exponential growth in the last couple of decades. However, despite its prominence, usefulness and cost effectiveness, subtitling practice is still to a large extent based on assumptions lacking empirical testing. Also, despite the multimodal nature of the source products, subtitling practice is still mostly focused on the verbal spoken mode, assuming image and sounds as universal codes in no need of translation. In this context, it is not surprising that the few existing questionnaire-based studies on reception have concluded that standard subtitling often leads to the loss of meaning and to the viewers’ sense of confusion when unable to interpret a given visual or verbal element.

In an effort to address the need for more empirical data on the effect of subtitling strategies, an experimental reception study was organized in collaboration with the translation industry. The aim was to collect empirical data on: a) the cognitive processes invoked when watching subtitled products; b) the viewers’ management of the interplay between visual, oral and aural information; c) the impact of specific translation strategies on the viewers’ cognitive load; and d) the viewers’ assessment of those strategies.

In this presentation, I will be discussing some of the results obtained in this study, namely regarding the impact of subtitling strategies of non-standard discourse and the use of additional titles offering information on verbal and visual references.