LINGUIST List 30.1608

Fri Apr 12 2019

Review: Translation: Gambier, Ramos Pinto (2018)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

***************** LINGUIST List Support *****************

Fund Drive 2019
29 years of LINGUIST List!
Please support the LL editors and operation with a donation at:

Date: 13-Jan-2019
From: YI CHEN <>
Subject: Audiovisual Translation
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

EDITOR: Yves Gambier
EDITOR: Sara Ramos Pinto
TITLE: Audiovisual Translation
SUBTITLE: Theoretical and methodological challenges
SERIES TITLE: Benjamins Current Topics 95
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2018

REVIEWER: YI CHEN, Macquarie University


“Audiovisual Translation: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges” is edited by Yves Gambier and Sara Ramos Pinto, both of whom are prolific researchers in translation studies. The book collects ten journal articles previously published in Target in 2016, and is intended to provide a brief introduction to the current research of Audiovisual Translation (AVT), touching on the topics of translation quality, discourse analysis and multimodal analysis, action research, pragmatics, psycholinguistic studies, and even gender study. Thus, it is quite evident that this book is intended to engage anyone who might be interested in AVT, including both researchers and industrial practitioners.

Paper 1: Descriptive translation studies of audio visual translation: 21st-century issues, challenges and opportunities (Alexandra Assis Rosa)

This paper offers a brief introduction of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) in AVT by discussing some theoretical and methodological issues, challenges and opportunities in the field. The article is divided into five parts. It starts with a list of DTS principles and the complexity of AVT and then provides a selective overview of DTS research on AVT. That is, the result of keyword searching on “audiovisual and DTS” suggests that “DTS apparently has only just started to be applied to AVT” (p. 14). Part Four is the focus of this article. It discusses the relevance of DTS on AVT by quoting two journal articles (Jorge Diaz-Cintas, 2004; Pym, 2001), and then raises concerns on semiotic complexity of the audiovisual text and application of conceptual framework of DTS on AVT. For example, the systematic descriptive analysis of AVT corpora may prove to be impractical due to the complexity and diversity of the research object. Other difficulties may arise due to the interdisciplinarity of DTS in AVT, specifically affected by some social factors including the need of research collaboration, lack of project funding and absence of assessments from linguistics or literary studies for publication. Therefore, the author suggests that DTS is currently less favoured in the field of AVT, as its main conceptual framework is not adequately applied. The author argues that AVT studies following a descriptive approach are valuable as these researches can be “instrumentalized in the medium or long term for the applied purpose of producing better AVT practice or training better AVT translators” (p. 20).

Paper 2: Machine translation quality in an audiovisual context (Aljoscha Burchardt, Arle Lommel, Lindsay Bywood, Kim Harris and Maja Popovic)

The paper presents probably the most popular topic of Machine Translation (MT) in an audiovisual context by discussing why the use of MT is rather difficult in AVT, specifically in the field of subtitling. The paper also presents some possible tools and methods for assessing MT quality. An overview of the technicality of MT shows that most MT systems are actually based on the statistical probabilities learnt through analysing large parallel corpora. By contrast, AVT of subtitles and dubbing scripts is based on an open domain. Its oral style and lack of visual and other contextual features makes it impossible to accurately calculate predictability of the content at all levels, including grammar, structure and vocabulary. The article also lists some examples. Accordingly, while discussing MT quality, the authors suggest that Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM) is a promising approach and propose a simpler and adapted metric for evaluating MT in the AVT context. The adapted metric makes a good framework for the relevant studies.

Paper 3: The multimodal approach in audiovisual translation (Christopher Taylor)

The paper is composed of five parts, with Part Two and Three as its focus to explore the application of multimodal analysis on AVT. For multimodal text analysis, it is important to identify various semiotic resources by taking a narrative approach and adapting linguistic, semiotic and cultural perspectives. In other words, a more holistic approach is required when multimodality is used to provide input for AVT. The article reviews a multimodal transcription which is devised by Thibault (2000) and later revised by Taylor (2003) for AVT research. Specially, the transcription is presented in a grid containing a detailed description of each screenshot. However, the author also points out that this method may be useful for understanding blended semiotic resources, but highly impractical to describe any audiovisual texts of longer duration. Eventually, the author proposes a concept of phasal analysis to replace screenshot-based description as a more manageable tool of multimodal analysis.

Paper 4: Action research: so much to account for (Joselia Neves)

The paper introduces Action Research (AR) on AVT, specifically subtitling for a Portuguese deaf audience by presenting and discussing a museum project called the MCCB project. The article introduces AR as a valuable tool in translation study and emphasizes its characteristics of being “collaborative, responsive, democratic, developmental and capacity building” (Stern, 2013, p. 228). Then, the article focuses on introducing the MCCB project as a participatory action research, in which AVT researchers’ role is set to “develop communication strategies, design models, test materials and arrive at solutions” (p. 56). Specifically during AR, the research topic is derived from the social environment and based on the researcher’s habitus, directly affecting the AVT products to be developed for the museum. It is believed that AR is a dialogic approach which integrates audiovisual digital materials with analogic tangible realities in this project. The author suggests that AR contributes to AVT practice and in the case of the project of MCCB, it brings multiple benefits, academically and financially.

Paper 5: From Translation Studies and audiovisual translation to media accessibility: some research trends (Aline Remael, Nina Reviers and Reinhild Vandekerckhove)

The paper discusses the AVT study by focusing on recent developments on subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH), mainly on intralingual subtitling, and giving a comprehensive account of research trends in Audio Description (AD) for the blind and visually impaired. For SDH, large and small scaled projects have been conducted and achieved notable development in live subtitling for intralingual speech cognition. In comparison, researches on interlingual live subtitling are relatively limited, possibly due to the lack of available materials. Comparing to SDH, the study on AD seems to face more challenges as most projects are too heterogeneous to work on. Eventually it will have a hard time developing into a fully-fledged discipline. The authors suggest that the future trend in this field lies in reception research and multimodality and the application of technology, preferably at intralingual studies such as text-to-speech technologies, use of mobile devices for the distribution of AD.

Paper 6: Imagined spectators: the importance of policy for audiovisual translation research (Carol O’Sullivan)

This paper introduces some theoretical and methodological challenges in the research of AVT policy. The paper gives a broad definition of translation policy and describes its scope. Then, it focuses on the research of policy in Descriptive Translation Studies. The article reviews some research and asserts that policy research in AVT is largely interdisciplinary and can benefit from studies on translation policy. When discussing policy issues in dubbing and subtitling, the author argues that the traditional view of dubbing as a strong nationalistic system and subtitling as way of promoting foreign language cannot reflect the diversity of current practice regarding national policies. The paper also reviews the methods in AVT studies, including archival research methods, reception studies, practitioner research and surveys, which are primarily extensive descriptive works. It concludes with the argument that government decrees are part of the policy. Some challenges and possible trends in policy research on AVT shows that the descriptive research in AVT policy should be recommended in current AVT practice.

Paper 7: Psycholinguistics and audiovisual translation (Jan-Louis Kruger)

This paper offers an overview of research in AVT from a psycholinguistic perspective. The article starts with an introduction to AVT and psycholinguistic studies. The article argues that a psycholinguistic perspective is able to aid AVT research by focusing on investigation of what happens during the processing of subtitles, or how subtitling affects the behaviour of viewers. The paper reviews 10 journal articles on the application of eye-tracking on AVT, touching on various topics including different reading behaviours of adults and children in subtitles, comparison of intralingual and interlingual subtitling, the chucking units in subtitling, receptive difference of subtitling between L1 and L2 audience, ESL students’ cognitive load in reading subtitling, and reading index of subtitles. The article concludes with recommendation of future psycholinguistic methodologies for AVT.

Paper 8: Cross-cultural pragmatics and audiovisual translation (Marie-Noelle Guillot)

This paper discusses the language in AVT from a cross-cultural pragmatics perspective. The article focuses on the contrastive pragmatics work of politeness in AVT. Linguistically, two types of studies are mentioned, namely studies that explicitly identify pragmatic components and those that integrate pragmatics incidentally. The author also reviews two articles (Hatim & Mason, 1997; Pinto, 2010) and discusses the issues of politeness and directness in AVT. The cultural asynchrony is discussed, focusing on the challenges of making functional equivalence in a target text. The paper acknowledges the contribution of pragmatic approaches in AVT research as bringing theoretical and methodological resources for identifying issues and rationalizing observations and findings, but also emphasizes the need of reception studies for better understanding of the researched object.

Paper 9: The importance of being relevant? A cognitive-pragmatic framework for conceptualizing audiovisual translation (Sabine Braun)

The paper discusses the AVT process and the application of relevance theory (RT) and mental model theory (MMT) in understanding the AVT process. Using a cognitive-pragmatic framework constructed in RT and MMT, the article argues against the general conceptualization of AVT as being partial and constrained. Specifically, RT and MMT are claimed as being complementary in modelling discourse process. MMT is for human reasoning as individuals construct mental models of corresponding situations in understanding discourse. RT is for assumption-based comprehension process in which individuals choose the optimally relevant way of communication. In this way, both theories can be applied to multimodal discourse and helps to deconstruct the process in AVT. Then, it is argued that AVT is not a filtering process, but a process involving an in-depth analysis of all visual-verbal relations, assessment of different translation strategies, knowledge of target audience, and context of film and contribution of all modes, to avail an optimally relevant rendition. In all, AVT is considered as multimodal processing and requires a holistic comprehension of all cues from different modes.

Paper 10: The ‘engendering’ approach in audio-visual translation (Marcella De Marco)

The paper provides a broad review of AVT research from a gender perspective. The only research on AVT from an engendering approach is mentioned in this paper. The research is identified to explore gender bias not only through the linguistic dimension but also through visual and audio one from a corpus compiled with 10 films and in three different languages. The paper then argues that the lack of AVT research from a gender perspective is mainly associated with film distribution, funding and policy issues as the distributed and translated film are often gender-exclusive or offensive. The author concludes with a call to raise awareness from both professionals and scholars about gender issues in AVT.


This book is well presented with articles carefully selected for offering a nearly panoramic view of the current AVT studies. The book does not focus on one or two particular approaches or research methods. Instead, it selects one article for each of the selected approaches in AVT research, introducing AVT from linguistic, social linguistic, psycholinguistic, and even cognitive perspectives. In addition, the book also presents different research methods used in AVT studies, such as AR, discourse analysis, and multimodal analysis. Some of articles in this book also touch on heated topics like MT and the impact of digital materials on AVT practice. In this way, the collection of the articles successfully reveals the complexity and diversity of AVT practice and the interdisciplinary and heterogeneous nature of the AVT research.

Indeed, although the book does not account for all approaches and methodologies in AVT, it is comprehensive enough to keep readers informed about the development that has been achieved in the field. In this sense, the book is highly recommended for students, teachers, researchers, industrial practitioners or any enthusiasts who start to explore their interests in AVT. That is, the book would be wonderful reading material to orient its readers into AVT research or to help them narrow down the scope of a prospective research project. Yet, it is also necessary for us to admit that the book cannot provide further assistance, or detailed references, to its readers on how specifically different approaches or methods are applied in AVT, as it does not include many empirical works. Clearly, the book focuses only on describing the landscape of AVT studies. Thus, it would be reasonable to state that the book well serves its objective.


Diaz-Cintas, Jorge. 2004. “In Search of a Theoretical Framework for the Study of Audiovisual Translation.” In Topics in Audiovisual Translation, ed. by Pilar Orero, 21-34, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hatim, Basil, and Ian Mason. 1997. The Translator as Communicator. London: Routledge.

Pinto, Derrin. 2010. “Lost in Subtitle Translations: The Case of Advice in the English Subtitles of Spanish Films.” Intercultural Pragmatics 7 (2): 257-277.

Pym, Anthony. 2001. “Four Remarks on Translation Research and Multimedia.” In (Multi) Media Translation, ed. by Yves Gambier, and Henrik Gottieb, 275-282, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Stern, Thomas. 2013. “What is Good Action Research?” Reflections about Quality Criteria.” In Action Research, Innovation and Change. International Perspectives across Disciplines, ed. by Thomas Stern, Andrew Townsend, Franz Rauch, and Angela Schuster, 202-220. London: Routledge.

Taylor, Christopher. 2003. “Multimodal Transcription in the Analysis, Translation and Subtitling of Italian Films.” The Translator 9(2): 191-206.

Thibalt, Paul. 2000. “The Multimodal Transcription of a Television Advertisement: Theory and Practice.” In Baldry 2000, 311-385.


Yi Chen took her PhD in Translation and Interpreting Studies from Macquarie University, Australia. She was a lecturer (on leave) in Xi’an International Studies University, China and is currently working as the project manager in Sydney Institute of Interpreting and Translation, Australia. Her research interests include interpreting studies, discourse analysis, Systemic Functional Linguistics and identity formation.

Page Updated: 12-Apr-2019