LINGUIST List 23.5030

Mon Dec 03 2012

Review: Translation; Discourse Analysis: Barambones Zubiria (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 01-Dec-2012
From: Josep Soler-Carbonell <>
Subject: Mapping the Dubbing Scene
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Josu Barambones ZubiriaTITLE: Mapping the Dubbing SceneSERIES TITLE: Audiovisual Translation in Basque TelevisionSERIES TITLE: New Trends in Translation Studies, Vol. 2PUBLISHER: Peter LangYEAR: 2012

Josep Soler-Carbonell, Institute of Communication, Tallinn University andInstitute of Estonian and General Linguistics, University of Tartu


This monograph examines the question of audiovisual translation (AVT) inBasque using the framework provided by Descriptive Translation Studies. Itconstitutes an original endeavor particularly because its focus and themajority of the data it uses come from animated products for children. As theauthor states in the introductory section, in the global era, translation hasgained in importance and relevance, as it can help to bridge cultural andlinguistic divides, enabling larger audiences to have access to worksoriginally produced in other languages. Small demographic groups may find itmore difficult to make use of their own resources in order to cover all theirneeds in the audiovisual realm, and therefore AVT becomes even more importantfor them. In the case of animated products for children, dubbing is also amore common feature than subtitling, as such audiences are not able to read atthe required pace. Furthermore, the Basque Country is situated in what couldbe called a ‘dubbing world area’ in that France and Spain tend to resort tothis solution when importing audiovisual products.

From the outset, the author clearly sets out three main objectives: the first,taking a macro perspective, is “to compile a catalogue of dubbed audiovisualprograms in order to gain an overall view of foreign programming on ETB” (p.3) (Euskal Telebista, the publicly owned Basque television). The secondobjective of the study, this time from a more micro point of view, is toidentify the “potential regularities and strategies followed by screentranslators” (p. 3), something that should help in identifying the translationnorms and techniques used in a translation process such as that being analyzedhere. The third and final objective is to compare and contrast the linguisticmodels used in dubbed texts with those used in original productions in Basque.This is possibly one of the most innovative features of the monograph, and thesystematic contrasting of two language models allows rich conclusions to bedrawn.

The book is structured in seven main chapters preceded by a brief introductorysection.

Chapter 1, “The Linguistic and Cultural Context”, provides a generalbackground on the Basque language with a focus on the sociolinguisticsituation surrounding it, the Basque education system, translation studies andBasque language, the media, and language planning. The chapter contains someessential information that assists greatly in comprehending the author’sstarting point. First, it is stressed that the majority of the population ofBasque-speaking areas cannot speak the language (p. 9): in total, between theFrench and the Spanish territories, 953,000 people are either French orSpanish monolinguals. In the Basque Country, this amounts to 51.5% of thetotal population. By contrast, 30.1% are fluent Basque and Spanish bilingualsand 18.3% are passive bilinguals (those who cannot speak Basque but who canunderstand and read it well or very well). Furthermore, the chapter explainsthat the majority of the school-age population attends schools that followwhat is known as Education Model D (all subjects are taught in Basque, exceptfor Spanish language), at least until the end of compulsory education.

Chapter 2, “Dubbing into Basque: A Historical Perspective”, offers anhistorical account of the presence of Basque in the media since ETB wasfounded in 1982. Initially, dubbing was a crucially important means of meetingaudiences’ needs, but since then, over time, the number of dubbed products hasprogressively decreased. One of the striking facts that the author highlightsis that since 1986, when ETB2 was created, a diglossic situation has arisensprung: ETB1 remained committed to broadcasting animation series or filmsdubbed in Basque, whereas ETB2 now airs mostly American series or moviesdubbed not into Basque but into Spanish. This chapter also presents thelanguage model used for dubbed products, which tends to follow the standardregister of the language. The author links this strategy to the fact that,particularly in minority-language contexts, the media are often ascribed adidactic and educational function. However, as Barambones himself notes, thisstrategy is misleading, because it makes use of a standard model that belongsto the written, rather than the spoken, domain, ultimately “rendering theaudiovisual text less expressive and less credible” (p. 43).

Chapter 3, “Descriptive Methodology Applied to the Field of AudiovisualTranslation”, provides a detailed explanation of the methodological stepsfollowed by the author in order to compile the corpuses of texts from which hegarnered his data. The author has clearly implemented a fine-grainedmethodology in order to prove that the texts chosen for the study were notselected merely at random. Seven selection criteria are established: thepredominance of a genre or subgenre, the origin of the audiovisual material,the source language, marketing, different translators/adaptors and dubbingstudios, and availability. On the other hand, the original texts in Basque arechosen according to the following elements: the predominance of a genre, thenumber of repeats, awards, audience rankings, and availability.

Chapter 4, “Characterization and Translation of Animated Cartoons”, offersfurther details concerning the most common features found in the world ofanimated cartoons, in relation to the creative process behind both theoriginal version (the characterization process) and the translated and dubbedversion of it.

Chapter 5, “A Model for the Analysis of Audiovisual Texts”, presents themethodology followed for textual analysis. Once again, the researcher followsa number of very rigorous steps, which suggests that the study ismethodologically sound. There are four levels of analysis: the first involves“Preliminary data”, where as much extra-textual information as possible iscollected. The second is “Macro-structural analysis”, the translation ofgraphic codes (titles, intertitles and inserts) and the translation of themusical code. “Micro-structural analysis” is the third stage, where thelexical and the syntactic features are analyzed. Finally, the “Intrasystemicanalysis” is applied, where the phonetic, lexical, morphological and syntacticcharacteristics of both the dubbed and the original audiovisual texts inBasque are analyzed and contrasted.

Chapter 6, “Descriptive-Comparative Analysis”, is dedicated to a completeanalysis of two audiovisual texts dubbed into Basque. The texts chosen forthis study are those that have already been selected following the stepsexplained in Chapter 3, namely one episode of each of two series, ''TotallySpies'' and ''Braceface'' (in Basque, ''Berediziko espioak'' and ''Burdinaho'' respectively). The three first levels of analysis as explained in theprevious chapter are applied to both texts. The fourth, ‘IntersystemicAnalysis’, is dealt with separately in the next chapter.

Chapter 7, “Intersystemic Analysis”, examines and contrasts the differentmodels of the Basque language in the texts studied by the author: the dubbedones (stemming from a source text originally in another language) and theoriginal ones (from productions created directly in Basque). The findingsindicate that the dubbed versions contain a higher degree of homogeneity,particularly at the lexical and morphosyntactic levels, with forms closer tothe standard register of the language, whereas the texts from the originalversion make use of forms and expressions that are much closer to thecharacteristics of the oral and colloquial language.

Finally, Chapter 8 presents the conclusions of the study. Here, the authorreturns to the main objectives that he had set down in the introduction andprovides a recapitulation of the results. Clearly, the data compiled in thisstudy allow the dubbing scene and audiovisual translation into Basque to beaccurately mapped. Secondly, the author’s analysis of dubbed texts provides adescription of the language model used in these texts, highlighting the factthat translators struggle between two poles: adequacy and acceptability(veracity). Finally, the contrast between dubbed and original texts brings afurther important nuance: original texts tend to make use of forms which arecloser to the oral register of the language, whereas dubbed versions are morehomogeneous and employ forms more typical of the standard language.


One of the foremost strengths of the monograph under review is themethodological aspect. The author is consistently clear and emphatic about thesteps taken for data collection and analysis. This means that the results aresound and trustworthy, and, all in all, the reader is left with the impressionthat this is a coherent study, even though its conclusions may not begroundbreaking. Moreover, in his introduction, the author is explicit aboutthe objectives he sets out to achieve in his research, and then returns tothem in the conclusion, summarizing the most relevant findings stemming fromthe investigation.

As far as the results and main outcomes of the study are concerned, one of themost significant conclusions derives from the section on ‘intrasystemicanalysis’, i.e. from comparing and contrasting dubbed texts in Basque with theoriginal works produced in this language. The dubbed texts tend to make moreuse of forms belonging to the standard language, closer to the writtenregister, whereas the original texts use forms which are more typically oraland colloquial. As intimated above, this might not be a groundbreakingfinding, as a smaller-scale study led by Vila i Moreno (Vila i Moreno et al.2007) already detected the ‘homogenizing’ effect of dubbed versions and theextensive use of standard-variety forms in the dubbings of American animatedfilms into Catalan and Castilian. The cited study also mentioned that locallyproduced films and TV series contained a higher degree of language varietiesand registers than dubbed products, even though no data from such local filmsor series were presented. Therefore, Barambones’ study provides a strong,neatly explained and detailed methodological framework to adopt whenconducting such audiovisual research and analysis.

On the weaker side of the monograph, a few key references are missing.Although it appears that the author centers his study on the general field ofTranslation Studies and, more specifically, AVT, given that the topic of hisanalysis is so closely related to key areas of sociolinguistics, suchomissions should not have occurred. First of all, and most significantly, whendiscussing the language models and particularly that of cartoons and animatedmovies, there is virtually no reference to Lippi-Green’s (1997) work. Althoughit is acknowledged that language plays an essential role in shaping thecharacters’ personalities, it is important to recognize that such linguisticcharacterization is not carried out at random. Language attitudes andideologies constitute an important element in that sense, and they haveconsequences that the analyst should not overlook.

Moreover, as seen previously, the question of the standard language is veryrelevant throughout the book. However, there is no reference to authors whohave devoted a substantial part of their work to analyzing the effects ofstandardization and language ideology (these include Milroy and Milroy 1999;Milroy 2001) or, more broadly, language ideology (including Schieffelin andWoolard 1994; Schieffelin, Woolard and Kroskrity 1998). The question oflanguage ideology is linked to the perceived lack of registers that Basquetranslators and dubbers may encounter, which is not exclusive to the Basquecase, but shared with many other minority or minoritized language situations.In the Catalan context, Frekko (2009) finds support for this perceived lack ofregisters from ethnographically collected data: interviews with Catalanlanguage professionals and observations of the work of a language editor atthe recording sessions of a Catalan television series.

This book constitutes a relevant contribution to the field of AVT, provides avery useful model that can be adopted by researchers in future studies in thisfield, and offers a detailed analysis of audiovisual translation in Basque.The work could have been enriched with the references cited above, but itstill represents a substantial and positive contribution to TranslationStudies. It will therefore make useful and insightful reading for students inthis field. It is likely to prove particularly helpful at the undergraduatelevel, but may also be fruitfully exploited for the purposes of postgraduatestudy or indeed by anyone with an interest in Basque language and culture.


Frekko, Susan. 2009. Normal in Catalonia: Standard language, enregistermentand the imagination of a national public. Language in Society 38(1), 71-93.

Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1997. English with an accent: Language, Ideology andDiscrimination in the United States. London: Routledge.

Milroy, James. 2001. Language ideologies and the consequences ofstandardization. Journal of Sociolinguistics 5(4), 530-555.

Milroy, James & Lesley Milroy. 1999. Authority in language: Investigatingstandard English (3rd edn.). London: Routledge.

Schieffelin, Bambi & Kathryn Woolard. 1994. Language ideology. Annual Reviewof Anthropology 23, 55-82.

Schieffelin, Bambi, Kathryn Woolard & Paul Kroskrity. 1998. Language ideology:Practice and Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Vila i Moreno, Francesc Xavier, Sarah Cassel, Núria Busquet Isart, Joan-PauCallejón i Mateu, Toni Mercadal Moll, Josep Soler Carbonell. 2007. Senseaccents? Les contradiccions de l’estàndard oral en els doblatges catalans depel·lícules d’animació. Revista de Llengua i Dret 47, 387-413.


Josep Soler-Carbonell obtained his Ph.D. in Linguistics and Communication atthe University of Barcelona (2010) with a contrastive analysis of thesociolinguistic situation in Estonia and Catalonia from the point of view ofspeakers’ language ideologies. His main research interests gravitate aroundthe broad areas of sociolinguistics and language anthropology, languageideologies, language and identity, language and media, and inter-cultural andinter-group communication. He now works as a postdoctoral research fellow atthe University of Tartu and as an Associate Professor at the Institute ofCommunication, Tallinn University.

Page Updated: 03-Dec-2012