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Characterisation in The Wire’s subtitles: ‘the game done changed’

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1 Characterisation in The Wire’s subtitles: ‘the game done changed’
Dr. Jane Lugea University of Huddersfield Characterisation in The Wire’s subtitles: ‘the game done changed’

2 Aims to introduce you to our research on the effect of omissions in subtitles on the characterisation process in The Wire to begin with, I will describe: The Wire subtitling practice characterisation some preliminary findings on the first episode of The Wire then together, we will analyse the changes between the audio dialogue and the English subtitles of a single scene… to identify: subtitling strategies the loss of characterisation cues; the possible effects on our understanding of character and the drama

3 The Wire ‘it’s all in the game’: parallels between drug-world, police, political and school systems. ‘chain of command’. power of institutions over individuals. ‘listen carefully’ to Baltimorese.

4 Subtitling spatial, temporal & financial constraints
omissions are necessary lack of training English subtitles used by: non-native English speakers speakers of English unfamiliar with Baltimorese/AAVE (e.g. Toolan 2011)

5 Subtitling Previous research has found that language that contributes towards interpersonal meaning is most often cut… …while elements that contribute towards ideational meaning are most often preserved… 3 kinds of meaning aka ‘metafunctions’ (Halliday 1976): ideational (propositional content) interpersonal (personal stance and relationships) textual (linking) these 3 kinds of meaning work in tandem and are not always extricable from one another!

6 Gathering Data Isolated the subtitles in a text file from the DVD using SubRip Watched the episode, noting the subtitling strategy used: addition, condensation or deletion (Gottlieb 1992) swap, orthography (my labels) Marked-up the 883 subtitles from episode 1: using underline for additions using square brackets for deletions Labeled each change according to: speaker, metafunction, dialect, word class, illocutionary effect, surge feature, characterisation cues (Culpeper 2001)

7 Culpeper’s (2001) Model of Characterisation
derived from research in social and cognitive psychology, stylistics and pragmatics. accounts for the process of creating character in the minds of readers, not the result. considers the blend of ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ processes: top-down: the schematic knowledge frames that readers bring to a text based on their experience. bottom-up: the cues provided in the language that contribute to our understanding of character.

8 Characterisation: Top-down Processes
Schema: “a structured cluster of concepts” used to organise information in discourse processing. “People frequently perceive others as members of social groups rather than as individuals. These groups are assumed to provide the basis for cognitive categories. Such categories are viewed as having prototype-like structures…” (Culpeper 2001: 75) personal categories (preferences, habits) social roles (kinship functions, occupation) group membership (class, race, religion, nationality etc.) Our impression of a character can be: category-based impression, the activation of cognitively-stored schemata to form an impression of a person (i.e. more top-down processes involved) person-based impression, formed by perceiving that person as they are described and inferred in the text (i.e. more bottom-up processes involved).

9 The blend of top-down and bottom-up processes
I would argue that first impressions of characters are guided by the implicit models offered by social schemata. Such schemata, once activated, offer a scaffolding for incoming character information. Moreover, they allow us to make further knowledge-based inferences and thereby flesh out our impressions of character. (Culpeper 2001: 86-7)

10 Characterisation in Drama
“…it is in drama that characters are particularly salient. Unlike typical prose fiction, in drama there is usually no narrator who intervenes and guides our perception of a character: we are exposed in a direct way to their words and actions...” (Culpeper 2001: 2) -> this is the same for television drama.

11 Textual Cues to Character in Drama
Cues from Characters Authorial Cues Stage directions Character names Explicit Cues Self-presentation Other-presentation Implicit Cues Conversational implicature (Im)politeness Lexis (e.g. register, social markers) Syntactic features Accent & dialect Visual features Context

12 Research Question: Q. Do the changes made to subtitles effect the characterisation process?

13 Research Question: Q. Do the changes made to subtitles effect the characterisation process? Lets look at the spreadsheet on your handout…

14 Subtitle Analysis

15 Preliminary findings: Subtitling Strategies
Change Strategy Frequency in episode 1 % orthography That's the price that  you were going to [gonna] quote me? 2 1.1 swap I ain't going to [in] no court. 1 0.5 addition You're up in New York on this? 5 2.8 condensation Detectives McNulty and Santangelo are going [back down] to the hall to 11 6.1 deletion Then you don't do it at all. [-What the f-] 160 89.4 TOTAL CHANGES 179 in 883 subs: 20.3%

16 Preliminary findings: What is being cut in general?
whole sentences: [I didn’t mean to cross you-] -I work for Stringer. [I work with Stringer, okay?] whole turns: [Stop playing. I’m telling you, man] discourse markers: yo, you know, all right, well, now vocatives: boss, Detective, Stringer, man, motherfucker interjections/surge features: Oh, um, shit spatial adverbs: round the way, back down, around repeated elements, e.g.: imperatives: Get down! [get down!], Hold up [hold up]. parallel structures: This'll teach you to give a fuck when it ain't your turn [to give a fuck].

17 Coherence: Parallelism & Discourse Markers
286 00:18:36,516 --> 00:18:39,849 This'll teach you to give a fuck when it ain't your turn [to give a fuck]. [See]

18 Analysis the results of our analyses are being published (McIntyre and Lugea, 2014; McIntyre and Walker, forthcoming; Lugea forthcoming) let’s have a bash at an analysis and see what you think the answer to the research question is… Q. Do the changes made to subtitles effect the characterisation process?

19 Analysis: Group task What is your schematic knowledge for US cops?
watch scene 5 from Series 1, episode 1 the changes are identified for you on the handout categorise the changes in terms of: the kind of meaning that has been affected (interpersonal, ideational or textual) implicit characterisation cues think of the effect on our impression of character

20 Conclusions as previous research has shown, interpersonal meaning is often reduced while ideational meaning is preserved; many characterisation cues are also cut: discourse markers, interjections, non-standard syntax, dialect etc despite attention to cohesion at the micro-level, textual meaning on macro level is neglected; the characters that are so central to The Wire are less nuanced in the English subtitles.

21 Future avenues for research:
Quantitative analysis of omissions in subtitling (Lugea, forthcoming) Gather eye-tracking data to assess real viewers’ behaviour Translated subtitles

22 References Culpeper, J. (2001) Language and Characterisation: People in Plays and Other Texts. London: Longman. Gottlieb, H. (1992) ‘Subtitling. A new University Discipline.’ In Dollerup & Loddegaard (eds.), Teaching Translation and Interpreting: Training, Talent and Experience, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp Halliday, M.A.K. (1976). Halliday: System and function in language. (G. Kress, Ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lugea (forthcoming) ‘The statistics and socio-stylistics of The Wire’s English subtitles’. McIntyre, Dan and Brian Walker (forthcoming) ‘Missed cues: subtitles and characterisation in TV drama.’ McIntyre, Dan and Jane Lugea (2014) ‘The effects of deaf and hard-of-hearing subtitles on the characterisation process: a cognitive stylistic study of The Wire.’ Perspectives: Studies in Translatology. Toolan, Michael (2011) ‘"I don't know what they're saying half the time, but I'm hooked on the series": Incomprehensible dialogue and integrated multimodal characterisation in The Wire.’ In Piazza, Bednarek and Rossi (eds.), Telecinematic Discourse: Approaches to the language of films and television series, Amsterdam and Philedelphia: John Benjamins, pp

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