Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Ian G. Malcolm


This thesis proposes a new approach to film dialogue translation (FDT) with special reference to the translation process and quality of English-to-Chinese dubbing. In response to the persistent translation failures that led to widespread criticism of dubbed films and TV plays in China for their artificial 'translation talk', this study provides a pragmatic methodology derived from the integration of the theories and analytical systems of information flow in the tradition of the functionalist approach to speech and writing with the relevant theoretical and empirical findings from TS and other related branches of linguistics. It has developed and validated a translation model (FITNIATS) which makes the intonation unit (IU) the central unit of film dialogue translation. Arguing that any translation which treats dubbing as a simple script-to-script process, without transferring the prosodic properties of the spoken words into the commensurate functions of TL, is incomplete, the thesis demonstrates that, in order to reduce confusion and loss of meaning/rhythm, the SL dialogue should be rendered in the IUs with the stressed syllables well-timed in TL to keep the corresponding information foci in sync with the visual message. It shows that adhering to the sentence-to-sentence formula as the translation metastrategy with the information structure of the original film dialogue permuted can result in serious stylistic as well as communicative problems. Five key theoretical issues in TS are addressed in the context of FDT, viz., the relations between micro-structure and macro-structure translation perspectives, foreignizing vs. domesticating translation, the unit of translation, the levels of translation equivalence and the criteria for evaluating translation quality. lf equivalent effect is to be achieved in all relevant dimensions, it is argued that 'FITness criteria' need to be met in film translation assessment, and four such criteria arc proposed. This study demonstrates that prosody and word order, as sensitive indices of the information flow which occurs in film dialogue through the creation and perception of meaning, can provide a basis for minimizing cross-linguistic discrepancies and compensating for loss of the FIT functions, especially where conflicts arise between the syntactic and/or medium constraints and the adequate transfer of cultural-specific content and style. The implications of the model for subtitling arc also made explicit.

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