By Sari Pietikäinen, FinlandAlexandra Jaffe, Long BeachHelen Kelly-Holmes, and Nikolas Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users."
AUTHORS: Matamala, Anna and Orero, Pilar TITLE: Listening to Subtitles PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG YEAR: 2010
Yaima Aimee Centeno, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, USA
The book is a monographic study in which the authors combine the topic of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing with technological advancements in television. The prologue discusses aspects of the new digitalization era of television and its impact on subtitling for the deaf. The total number of chapters comprising the monograph is fifteen. They are divided taking into consideration the authors who wrote about many different topics within Sign Language and the deaf and hard of hearing. The majority of the chapters focus on criteria in the placement of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. Only two chapters are fully dedicated to the linguistic description of the deaf and hard of hearing, while in the others, there is a combination of the linguistic characteristics of this population and the technology that can be used to improve subtitling. The authors also expose variations within Sign Language and how to take these into consideration when creating subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. The differences within Sign Language, as well as the increasing advances in the technology of television constitute a problem when attempting to improve subtitling. The authors discuss these problems while still covering the contribution of many other fields to Sign Language, and the deaf and hard of hearing.
The objectives of the monograph are to approach the aspect of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, while taking into a consideration a variety of perspectives. The first few compilations focus mainly on more general and technical aspects of subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing, such as the font and size of letters, as well as the position of text on the television screen. Utray, Ruiz & Moreiro, in their chapter, specify the amount of pixels subtitles should have horizontally. These authors also recommend Sans Serif font as the most suitable for subtitling. The first few articles also address the philological aspect of subtitling, which points out some examples regarding the lack of attention given to the literacy of the deaf and hard of hearing population. This has resulted in illiteracy among this specific population and also the generalization that the deaf and hard of hearing are able to learn the language of the country where they reside. Cabeza-Pereiro points out that deaf children do not learn the Sign Writing system required to attain a certain level of metalinguistic maturity. Therefore, creating subtitles for the deaf population should take into consideration their linguistics abilities. These few compilations only concentrate on the more general Spanish deaf and hard of hearing community without focusing on a specific country.
Throughout the book, the authors touch upon the linguistic peculiarities of the deaf and hard of hearing population, while simultaneously considering more efficient subtitling criteria. Matamala and Orero present some ideas on the case of deaf people in the United States, United Kingdom and Spain. They point out the diversity within the deaf population in these countries, which is not taken into consideration when preparing subtitles for them. Deaf people have a distinct way of learning in comparison with the rest of the population. Since their language is composed of signs, they are taught the grammar of the sign language used in their country while also learning to read the lips of their interlocutors. One of the myths clarified in the monograph is that regardless of the knowledge of deaf people, generalizing and basing subtitling on this generalization becomes the greatest barrier to overcome when implementing more efficient subtitling techniques for the deaf and hard of hearing. Besides touching upon the linguistic peculiarities of the deaf and hard of hearing, the authors also explore some ideas about the metalinguistic knowledge of this community, covering the basics of interactions between the deaf and hard of hearing and the rest of the population who can hear and speak a language.
The rest of the compilations within the book concentrate on the case of the deaf and hard of hearing population in Europe, specifically Spain. It is in these sections of the book where one can find a combination of techniques regarding subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and the application of these techniques, specifically to the deaf and hard of hearing within the Castilian Spanish speaking community. The insertion of features from the Spanish Sign Language (SSL) into subtitles requires special attention, since it can improve the understanding of subtitles for deaf members of the community whose native language is Spanish Sign Language (SSL). It is also in this section of the monograph where Matamala and Orero differentiate between subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing who know sign language, and those who know SSL. Another aspect to consider is the reading habits of deaf people. By taking on three projects and describing the corresponding data, analysis, and results the authors also give a broad overview about the pros and cons of the application of their projects to other communities. This information will ultimately prove to be helpful for future projects and research about subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
The introduction of the book previews the main ideas to be covered in a very clear and concise way. The audience will read the introduction of the book and have a general idea about some of the terms being exposed in some of the chapters. However, the rest of the book is very technical in its approach to subtitles and explanations of their use for the deaf and hard of hearing. This actually adds value to the book since it accomplishes the mission of informing the reader about the topic at hand in its entirety. The conclusions and references at the end of each chapter also help those who are actively conducting research regarding this topic to review more recent literature about subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing. Another very helpful section for those conducting research in this area is the list of references at the end of the book. The authors compiled references about subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing while also adding literature from other disciplines which are connected to the topic. As such, the book approaches the topic effectively in terms of the way the subtopics are organized and also tied in with the main topic.
It is an arduous task to give a description of the many components of subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing while exposing the different projects that have taken place in Europe (mainly Spain and France). However, the various pictographic explanations complement the information and are of immense help for the reader. However, the purpose of the book is not to provide a large amount of information by using pictographs. This is confirmed by the fact that the book has a great balance of print and pictographic explanations. It is also important to point out that a lot of the pictographic explanations are in the form of surveys and questionnaires regarding subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing. Throughout the book, not all the case studies and/or projects have surveys and/or questionnaires. Only one of the studies has a questionnaire where the participants were asked to rank a given clip among other clips. In contrast, the majority of the studies show examples of the positioning of subtitles, fonts, quality of transmission, and details of images.
As previously stated, each case study and project constitutes a chapter of the book, in which a summary is included, as well as the results. The data is explained in great detail. This shows that the book is intended for a scholarly audience particularly concerned with the topic of subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing. There are other disciplines integrated into the topic, such as linguistics, however, only those conducting research on the topic will be able to fully grasp the content of the book. This also goes along with the main focus of the book, which is to update the audience about the state of research on subtitling in Europe. Therefore, the book will also serve as a guide for those conducting research on subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing in other parts of the world, such as Latin America. In general, the book is a great compilation about the most recent works in subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Yaima Aimee Centeno is currently pursuing a PhD in Spanish Linguistics at
the State University of New York at Albany. Her PhD thesis has the purpose
of studying and describing the Spanish spoken in the Eastern part of Cuba,
specifically in Guantanamo City. Her research intends to expand the
linguistic knowledge of Cuban Spanish spoken in Cuba. Her main interest in
this topic arose from one of her trips to Guantanamo, Cuba where she subtly
noticed certain aspects of the Spanish spoken there. She has been
interested in pursuing her research there ever since.