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Georgakopoulou, Panayota (2010). Reduction Levels in Subtitling: DVD Subtitling: A Convergence of Trends.

Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 508 pp., £68. 00    ISBN 978-3-8383-1454-9.

Interest in screen translation and subtitling in particular has been relatively new. Yet since the end of the 20th century, especially thanks to the advent of the DVD and the broad realization that film and television form the cultural medium “in which twentieth-century men […] are immersed” (Garrett, 1971: 9), there has been a surge not only in the interest, but also in the practice, research and theoretical reflections about audiovisual translation (AVT). Even so, there is still a lot to be said about it. In her book Georgakopoulou, a leading expert in the practice as well as  academic study of audiovisual translation, manages to respond to that need for “more” research, providing empirical insights into subtitling in relation to Greek as well as various European languages.

In a nutshell, Georgakopoulou offers a comprehensive account of the evolution and the current practice of subtitling. She analyses the various forms and processes of subtitling, she underlines its intricacies and she goes on to offer a clear review of subtitling theory and its relation to translation theory. What is more, she proposes a transparent subtitling model for the analysis of subtitle ratios and speech reduction levels in subtitling, on the basis of which she analyses various English film scripts and subtitle files translated into Greek as well as subtitle files in various European languages based on a DVD template. It can be said that her work sets a theoretical framework of screen translation, and subtitling in particular, both in the pre- and the post-DVD era, drawing on the findings from this dual examination of the first and foremost principle of subtitling: reduction.

The book consists of six chapters. The first chapter constitutes an introduction and an overview of screen translation methods, both isosemiotic and diasemiotic. It outlines the polarisation of European countries on the basis of the preferred screen translation method, i.e. subtitling or revoicing, focusing at the same time on the factors which affect the particular choice of method. An objective account of the suitability of subtitling or revoicing to different programme genres is also provided.

The second chapter is devoted to the history of audiovisual translation and provides information on subtitling for the cinema, for the television, for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (SDH) as well as on audio description and surtitling. Moreover, since subtitling, like every other screen translation method, largely depends on technical restrictions that inevitably shape the translation strategies applied at the linguistic level, it is only natural that Georgakopoulou places emphasis on these requirements, as they developed throughout its history. The second chapter also offers a comparative analysis of subtitling and revoicing as a means of exemplifying the way that translation strategies work within a subtitling environment.

The third chapter takes the reader into a fascinating journey into the theory of screen translation. It provides an almost exhaustive account of  subtitling-specific publications up until the end of the 20th century and most importantly it offers a literature review, a theoretical background, of screen translation as it is portrayed in general translation theory. The chapter continues with the presentation of the various proposed models of subtitling (Delabastita (1989, 1990), Nedergaard-Larsen (1993), Kovačič (1991, 1994, 1996), De Linde (1995), Gottlieb (1992, 1994a, 1994b, 1995, 1996, 1997a, 1997b) and Lomheim (1999)) and concludes with the description of the linguistic model used for the analysis of the data and which is actually a streamlined version of Lomheim’s (1999: 207) model of translation strategies. The fourth chapter then goes on to present the actual analysis of the raw data taken from subtitle files of English films that have been subtitled into Greek by various subtitling studios in Greece, either for cinema or home video release, or for television broadcasting. The analysis which is carried out on the basis of reduction percentages and different film genres leads to the conclusion that the characteristics of film genre do influence the reduction levels applied in the subtitling process when moving from English into Greek.

In the fifth chapter, an analysis of the DVD as a medium is carried out with a view to establishing the reasons behind the importance of this “major technological advance”, as Georgakopoulou (2010: 37) claims. Subtitle files and template files for the same films on a European scale are then analysed, at times corroborating and at times refuting previous findings. The analysis also offers further insight in the polarisation of countries into subtitling and dubbing ones. In particular, the results indicate that the subtitling or revoicing used in a particular country does in fact influence reduction percentages. A functional approach is then used for putting these findings into perspective and for drawing conclusions as to the importance of the DVD for screen translation and subtitling in particular. These conclusions are reiterated in the sixth and concluding chapter of the book.

A very useful glossary of terms and a comprehensive list of References can prove of particular use to any student or newcomer in AVT.

In short, the book has the advantage of offering insights into different theoretical aspects as well as the actual practice of subtitling. As such, it constitutes an important contribution to the literature on screen translation. Apart from underlying the importance and prominence of the template in the evolution of subtitling, it also clearly demonstrates the effect that the screen translation background of a country has on the subtitling style used at least in terms of reduction. As a result, it can be considered a multidimensional study covering numerous aspects which may be of interest, at varying degrees, to students and professionals alike. Translation scholars and AVT researchers will also be pleased to have this book to hand as it will indisputably provide them with food for thought.

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Vilelmini Sosoni, Ionian University