Scandinavian Subtitles : A Comparative Study of Subtitling Norms in Sweden and Denmark with a Focus on Extralinguistic Cultural References

University dissertation from Stockholm : Engelska institutionen

Abstract: Subtitling is the most commonly read medium of all in Scandinavia, and this study contains a survey of audiovisual translation (AVT), which illustrates the predominance of subtitling over other forms of AVT in Scandinavia. Still, the medium has not been very well researched.This study compares Danish and Swedish subtitles with the object of uncovering Scandinavian norms for television subtitling. The corpus used consists of 100 contemporary anglophone films and TV programmes and their Swedish and Danish (+ some Norwegian) subtitles.The study investigates technical norms of subtitling, such as exposure times, expected reading speeds, condensation rates and subtitle density. However, the study focuses on Extralinguistic Cultural References (ECRs). Generally speaking, ECRs are references to places, people, institutions, customs, food etc. that you may not know, even if you know the language in question. Seven main strategies for rendering ECRs in subtitles are identified: Retention, Specification, Direct Translation, Generalization, Substitution, Omission and the use of an Official Equivalent. Factors that influence which strategy is used, such as Transculturality and Extratextuality, are also identified. The results for Denmark and Sweden are compared, and norms are formulated and discussed in some detail.The most important finding of this study is that Scandinavian subtitling norms – both technical and those relating to the rendering of ECRs – are converging or have converged. While previous research indicates that these norms differed a great deal as recently as the late 1980s, it now makes sense to talk about pan-Scandinavian norms, rather than national norms. This development is linked to advances in subtitling technology and to globalization.

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