From film reception to translation production: Suboptimal visual-verbal coding

Mikołaj Deckert, Rafał Augustyn


Typically, translation is conceived of as a process in which the translator is presented with source elements to be rendered into the target language. In this paper we focus on a decision-making phase that is taken for granted in the above formulation but emerges in the context of audiovisual translation, where the source material is semiotically complex. That phase consists in deciding whether certain source elements are to be translated. Language in film is canonically thought of as dialogues or monologues that are delivered orally, and it comes as no surprise that research into the translator’s decisions has been mostly concerned with this mode of communication. An under-examined case is when rather than being spoken, language is shown on the screen. As is argued in this paper, such scenarios have rich meaning-making potential and clearly deserve scholarly attention. The paper has two main objectives. The first one is to offer insights into how different types of visual verbal coding (VVC) function in film, with an emphasis on the implications for the translator’s decisions. The second objective is to offer a methodological perspective. To that end, the reported research into VVC is two-pronged. First, we offer an introspection-based qualitative analysis of a representative selection of VVC cases. That line of inquiry is then combined with input obtained from a reception experiment.


Translation and cognition; visual attention; audiovisual translation; translatorial decision making.

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