LINGUIST List 23.1958

Fri Apr 20 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Translation: Matamala & Orero (2010)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 20-Apr-2012
From: Yaima Centeno <>
Subject: Listening to Subtitles 

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Announced at
AUTHORS: Matamala, Anna and Orero, Pilar
TITLE: Listening to Subtitles 
YEAR: 2010

Yaima Aimee Centeno, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, StateUniversity of New York at Albany, Albany, USA


The book is a monographic study in which the authors combine the topic ofsubtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing with technological advancements intelevision. The prologue discusses aspects of the new digitalization era oftelevision and its impact on subtitling for the deaf. The total number ofchapters comprising the monograph is fifteen. They are divided taking intoconsideration the authors who wrote about many different topics within SignLanguage and the deaf and hard of hearing. The majority of the chapters focus oncriteria in the placement of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. Onlytwo chapters are fully dedicated to the linguistic description of the deaf andhard of hearing, while in the others, there is a combination of the linguisticcharacteristics of this population and the technology that can be used toimprove subtitling. The authors also expose variations within Sign Language andhow to take these into consideration when creating subtitles for the deaf andhard of hearing. The differences within Sign Language, as well as the increasingadvances in the technology of television constitute a problem when attempting toimprove subtitling. The authors discuss these problems while still covering thecontribution of many other fields to Sign Language, and the deaf and hard ofhearing.

The objectives of the monograph are to approach the aspect of subtitles for thedeaf and hard of hearing, while taking into a consideration a variety ofperspectives. The first few compilations focus mainly on more general andtechnical aspects of subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing, such as thefont and size of letters, as well as the position of text on the televisionscreen. Utray, Ruiz & Moreiro, in their chapter, specify the amount of pixelssubtitles should have horizontally. These authors also recommend Sans Serif fontas the most suitable for subtitling. The first few articles also address thephilological aspect of subtitling, which points out some examples regarding thelack of attention given to the literacy of the deaf and hard of hearingpopulation. This has resulted in illiteracy among this specific population andalso the generalization that the deaf and hard of hearing are able to learn thelanguage of the country where they reside. Cabeza-Pereiro points out that deafchildren do not learn the Sign Writing system required to attain a certain levelof metalinguistic maturity. Therefore, creating subtitles for the deafpopulation should take into consideration their linguistics abilities. These fewcompilations only concentrate on the more general Spanish deaf and hard ofhearing community without focusing on a specific country.

Throughout the book, the authors touch upon the linguistic peculiarities of thedeaf and hard of hearing population, while simultaneously considering moreefficient subtitling criteria. Matamala and Orero present some ideas on the caseof deaf people in the United States, United Kingdom and Spain. They point outthe diversity within the deaf population in these countries, which is not takeninto consideration when preparing subtitles for them. Deaf people have adistinct way of learning in comparison with the rest of the population. Sincetheir language is composed of signs, they are taught the grammar of the signlanguage used in their country while also learning to read the lips of theirinterlocutors. One of the myths clarified in the monograph is that regardless ofthe knowledge of deaf people, generalizing and basing subtitling on thisgeneralization becomes the greatest barrier to overcome when implementing moreefficient subtitling techniques for the deaf and hard of hearing. Besidestouching upon the linguistic peculiarities of the deaf and hard of hearing, theauthors also explore some ideas about the metalinguistic knowledge of thiscommunity, covering the basics of interactions between the deaf and hard ofhearing 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 deafand hard of hearing population in Europe, specifically Spain. It is in thesesections of the book where one can find a combination of techniques regardingsubtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and the application of thesetechniques, specifically to the deaf and hard of hearing within the CastilianSpanish speaking community. The insertion of features from the Spanish SignLanguage (SSL) into subtitles requires special attention, since it can improvethe understanding of subtitles for deaf members of the community whose nativelanguage is Spanish Sign Language (SSL). It is also in this section of themonograph where Matamala and Orero differentiate between subtitling for the deafand hard of hearing who know sign language, and those who know SSL. Anotheraspect to consider is the reading habits of deaf people. By taking on threeprojects and describing the corresponding data, analysis, and results theauthors also give a broad overview about the pros and cons of the application oftheir projects to other communities. This information will ultimately prove tobe helpful for future projects and research about subtitles for the deaf andhard of hearing.


The introduction of the book previews the main ideas to be covered in a veryclear and concise way. The audience will read the introduction of the book andhave a general idea about some of the terms being exposed in some of thechapters. However, the rest of the book is very technical in its approach tosubtitles and explanations of their use for the deaf and hard of hearing. Thisactually adds value to the book since it accomplishes the mission of informingthe reader about the topic at hand in its entirety. The conclusions andreferences at the end of each chapter also help those who are activelyconducting research regarding this topic to review more recent literature aboutsubtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing. Another very helpful section forthose conducting research in this area is the list of references at the end ofthe book. The authors compiled references about subtitling for the deaf and hardof hearing while also adding literature from other disciplines which areconnected to the topic. As such, the book approaches the topic effectively interms 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 subtitlingfor the deaf and hard of hearing while exposing the different projects that havetaken place in Europe (mainly Spain and France). However, the variouspictographic explanations complement the information and are of immense help forthe reader. However, the purpose of the book is not to provide a large amount ofinformation by using pictographs. This is confirmed by the fact that the bookhas a great balance of print and pictographic explanations. It is also importantto point out that a lot of the pictographic explanations are in the form ofsurveys and questionnaires regarding subtitling for the deaf and hard ofhearing. Throughout the book, not all the case studies and/or projects havesurveys and/or questionnaires. Only one of the studies has a questionnaire wherethe 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 thebook, in which a summary is included, as well as the results. The data isexplained in great detail. This shows that the book is intended for a scholarlyaudience particularly concerned with the topic of subtitling for the deaf andhard of hearing. There are other disciplines integrated into the topic, such aslinguistics, however, only those conducting research on the topic will be ableto fully grasp the content of the book. This also goes along with the main focusof the book, which is to update the audience about the state of research onsubtitling in Europe. Therefore, the book will also serve as a guide for thoseconducting research on subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing in otherparts of the world, such as Latin America. In general, the book is a greatcompilation about the most recent works in subtitling for the deaf and hard ofhearing.


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.

Page Updated: 20-Apr-2012