Difficulties of translating humour: From English into Spanish using the subtitled British comedy ske
Humour is a complex concept which tends to build on the ambiguity of language. When converting a humoristic program into a different language, the translator thus faces many challenges. One of these is the translation of cultural aspects of the TL (target language). Since every culture contains its unique form of humour, understanding the humour within a culture and all its cultural elements is essential to producing an adequate translation.
The study at hand focuses on the translation of the British comedy-sketch show Little Britain analyzing how it has been converted from its SL (source language), which is English, to its TL, which in this study will be Spanish. It proved to be highly constructive for the purposes of this research as the humour is often very culture-specific and thus difficult to translate.
For the benefit of the reader, the first part of this dissertation is going to discuss various theories of humour. Moreover, it will discuss how humour is created in the comedy sketch show Little Britain. As subtitles will be used for the analysis of the case study, limitations and constraints will be discussed as the translator cannot merely focus on the linguistic features and possible problems like she/he would do in any other form of translation.
Using Attardo’s theory (1994), the study aims to explore aspects that create difficulties during the translation process, always in relation to humour that is seen in a comedy sketch show. It explores the translation of humour, examining potential problems that translators need to overcome and expands on this by investigating the difficulties that arise when translating culture-specific issues. In addition, as this is an audiovisual translation, potential problems that become relevant in the case study are highlighted.
The study highlights the difficulties a translator faces within the process and, where relevant, possible alternative strategies that the translator could have applied in the translation process.
Chapter 1, Humour and subtiling:
This chapter will first discuss how humour can be described, the main theories connected with it and also the humour which is used in the sketch show Little Britain.
1.1, What is Humour?
Humour is one of the characteristics associated within each culture and many academics argue that having a sense a humour is healthy. They also argue that humour previously referred to those who were ignorant and foolish but that is far from the case and nowadays it is a form of entertainment within each culture and society (Chapman & Foot, 1976: Morreall, 1983: Ross, 1988). Jokes have evidently changed in the form of how they were worded a hundred years ago, but the subject matters have still remained the same; based on such issues like the weather, the mysterious class system, politicians, celebrities, ourselves and our bizarre habits (Duguid, n.d.).
Humour is ,something that makes you laugh or smile’ (Ross, 1988, p.1). Academics highlight that this is the case when referring to humour. However is there an absolute theory as to why we laugh? Morreal (1983, p.1) argues that there is no general theory for laughter and that ,we laugh in such diverse situations that it seems difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a single formula that will cover all cases of laughter’.
1.2, Overview of Theories of Humour:
There is no general theory; however, there are diverse theories that discuss the different aspects of humour.
The first theory is known as the superiority theory, proposed by Plato and then later strengthened by Hobbes. This theory focuses on the suddenness of when we laugh and the reason why we laugh, which, according to Morreall (1983) is because we feel we are superior to others. Morreall (1983, p.10) disagrees with the notion that superiority is a theory as he claims that a baby’s laughter when playing the game peek-a-boo cannot be categorised with the superiority theory because the baby is too young and incapable to compare itself with others. La Fave, Haddad & Maesen (1976, p.64) also disagree with the suddenness aspect claiming that Hobbes refers to the suddenness element when talking about surprise however this is not a necessary element to create humour because jokes heard before would then prove not to be as funny told again. If modern theorists now disagree with this theory and all agree that humour is now viewed as an overall positive impact on society, is it right to assume that this theory can now be disregarded?
The second theory is known as the incongruity theory which originates from Aristotle.
This theory concentrates on the ambiguity which ,misleads the audience, followed by the punchline’ (Ross,1988, p.20). Rothbart (1976, p.52) agrees with this theory however claims that the incongruities in a joke should not be problematic but should be used for entertainment, play or fun. Morreall (1983, p.19) believes that this theory does not cover all areas of laughter and cannot be categorized as a theory which is able to determine and explain each case of humour i.e. Incongruities can also trigger fear and not always laughter.
The last theory to consider is the relief theory which is associated greatly with Sigmund Freud and Herbert Spencer who focused on humour as a way to ,release or save energy generated by repression’(Smutts, 2009). This theory discusses the aspect of humour which doesn’t necessarily involve laughter, but rather a smile. Smutts (2009) and Morreall (1983) both disagree with this theory as it does not account for all cases of laughter and Chapman (1976, p.134) makes a contrast with this theory claiming that ,arousal increases with the intensity of humour response and is necessary for humour’.
Humour is a complex concept which tends to use the ambiguity of language. Unintentional humour occurs when there is a lapse in expression thus resulting in a conflict between what is expected and what actually occurs in the joke (Ross, 1988, p.7). This type of humour is apparent in everyday life; however, the humour which is created is not using any form of cultural element. Unintentional humour therefore is seen to be used when manipulating the language in order to create humour, however, in a sketch show how is humour achieved?
1.2.1, The Humour of Little Britain:
Little Britain was produced in the UK and first aired by the BBC in 2003. It could be said as being form of a satirical comedy as all the shows sketches use characters to exaggerate on many situations familiar to British people within British society. The humour was so successful with the target audience that it won comedy awards three years in-a-row from 2003-2006 (The British Comedy Awards, 2011). It also appears in the 2008 Guinness World Records as the highest-selling comedy DVD in the world (Dugan, 2007).
In this particular sketch show which is under study, parody is employed to satirise everyday life of British society. Satirical humour can be seen as a success by some and by others not, therefore when translating it into the TL, this could create more of a difficulty for those to accept this form of humour.
Research into the field of humour has shown that there is no terminological consensus for the term, thus resulting in many authors discussing different aspects such as the laughter, a smile, fear, etc. Oxford dictionary defines it as , the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech’(Oxford Dictionary,2012). With this in mind, if we take into account the different theories put forward by different authors, can the comedy sketch show be categorized into any of them?
Each theory contains elements of humour which have been incorporated into the programme; however there is not one theory which could be considered as the primary focus to make the target audience laugh. In Little Britain, there is no humour theory which can define exactly how humour is constructed in the show to illustrate how it has become such a success. A linguistic approach is required to give more of an understanding into the topic of how humour is produced from a general perspective in the comedy sketch show.
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- Artikel-Nr.: SW9783954895281
- Artikelnummer SW9783954895281
- Wasserzeichen ja
- Verlag Anchor Academic Publishing
- Seitenzahl 48
- Veröffentlichung 01.06.2013
- ISBN 9783954895281
- Wasserzeichen ja