[New Publication] More than words: a multimodal analytical framework for studying the subtitling of swearwords

By Siwen Lu


This study aims to adopt existing methodologies to build a Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL)-based multimodal analytical framework capable of analysing swearing and its subtitling in their full multimodal context. The proposed framework offers tools to investigate how the communicative meanings of swearing are constructed through the interaction between different elements in different modes, and the effects of the retention and modification of the intermodal relations on subtitled films. This study finds that swearing is constructed multimodally through three metafunctional levels. Although the original swearwords are mostly omitted or changed to be less offensive in the Chinese subtitles, most communicative meanings of swearing can be inferred from the complementary relation between subtitles and the elements in the spoken and mise-en-scène modes. The study concludes that the focus of subtitle translation analysis should not be on what is lost in the target texts but on the contributions of different elements in different modes and their intermodal relations as well as how individual translation techniques work in a multimodal environment.