Hatim & Mason (1990: viii)


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1. Introduction
When we read or hear any language from the past, or when we receive as human beings any message from any other human being, we perform an act of translation. What does such an act involve? At least, an understanding of the cultural and experimental worlds that lie behind the original act of speaking or of writing, ways into their schemata, if you like. Secondly, an understanding of the potential of the two semiotic systems in terms of their image-making. Third, and most obviously, a making intelligible of the linguistic choices expressed in the message. Fourthly an opportunity to explore the social psychological intentions of the originator of the message matched against one’s own. Lastly, a challenge to match all of these with our appropriate response in our semiotic and linguistic system, and our culture.

Hatim & Mason (1990: viii)

Dubbing, as a mode of audio-visual translation, has been introduced to the Czech audience in the 1930’s and due to its gradual development has gained a well-deserved reputation of being one of the best all over the world.

Each mode of audio-visual translation brings out its specific limitations and restrictions when translation of a source text is concerned. Dubbing in particular is limited by a constant need to synchronize. What is being said in the target language has to correspond with the image on the screen – it regards the content of the utterances employed, the gestures used by the actors, the lip movements of the actors and, above all, the length of the utterance. Such restrictions might cause the final product to be unnatural, not authentic enough or inaccurate in its message portrayed to the audience.

The aim of this thesis is to explore the extent to which such restrictions influenced the dubbed version of the sitcom Friends. The corpus consists of three episodes of the fourth season of this series – it comprises of the original English version, of the dubbed version and of its translated version. The translated version was obtained by courtesy of Ivana Breznenová, one of the translators of Friends. Her version is a translation of the source text on which the adapted translation is based, and which was adjusted by the adaptors according to the special needs of the dubbing mode. For the purpose of this thesis, I will work with the sitcom as a whole, however, the detailed analysis will deal only with the three above-mentioned episodes.

The first part of the thesis deals with audio-visual translation as such, it presents an overview of its modes and their particularities, and then it focuses on dubbing as a process with its specific demands and constraints.

The second part of the thesis deals with the analysis of the corpus. It is divided into two parts – Primary and Secondary Assessment. Primary Assessment investigates the culture-specific terms found in the corpus according to Newmark’s typology of translation procedures (1988: 81-91), then the analysis of linguistic-specific terms such as rhymes, idioms or wordplays follows, and last but not least the AVT1-specific issues are examined. Afterwards, I proceed with Secondary Assessment – it comments on the types of translation universals used in the primary translation and the adapted translation, namely contraction methods (implicitation and elimination) and expansion methods (explicitation and addition). Even though this part is called “Secondary Assessment”, it is not of lower importance – it just observes the translated texts from a different point of view. This view can overlap with the Primary Assessment in some aspects; nevertheless, the use of both of them can bring intriguing information about the texts.

My initial primary hypothesis is that the average length of speech in the adapted translation will be identical with that of the source text as the lip synchronization prevents the adapted translation from expanding.

The secondary objective of the thesis is to demonstrate whether there are any differences between the primary translation and the adapted translation with respect to the culture-specific and linguistic-specific terms. As regards the treatment of the culture-specific terms, dubbing is presupposed to favour the domesticating approach to their translation. With reference to the linguistic-specific terms (and to wordplays, idioms and rhymes in particular), the surmise is that there will be a considerable loss of its determining features as it is difficult to transfer them into the target text.

The tertiary hypothesis posits that the adapted translation will be characterized by a considerably higher use of contraction strategies than expansion strategies, and these contractions will be motivated by the need to shorten the primary translation so that it fits the provided space. It is also assumed that expansion strategies will not be used to a large extent as they make the text more extensive.

2. Theoretical Part

2.1. General Background

The following chapters deal with the general background of the material compiled in the corpus. They concern sitcom as a genre and they describe a typical audience of the sitcom Friends. Individual subchapters are devoted to the main characters of the sitcom as their characterizations might enable better understanding of the jokes and situations described in the practical part.

2.1.1. Sitcom as a Genre

Situation comedy originated on radio in the 1920s. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary the term “sitcom” was used for the first time in 1951 for the comedy I Love Lucy. Sitcoms come from the United States which is the leading producer of the genre.

A situation comedy is usually referred to as a sitcom and today, it is the mainstream television entertainment. Sitcoms consist of ongoing cast of characters in a given environment (it is usually family home or workplace) and have one or more story lines in comedic drama which are followed throughout the episodes of a given sitcom. Sitcom can include laugh tracks, it is usually half an hour in length aired weekly and is often shot in front of a live studio audience, which is also the case of Friends.

Friends was the most popular US sitcom of the 1990’s – 2000’s. Some critics say its story arc is similar to that of soap operas as it often uses soap opera features such as cliffhangers at the end of a season. Nevertheless, after broadcasting the finale of Friends in 2004, media critics speculated whether we can expect only a steep decline in the quality and popularity of sitcoms or whether it is the end of the sitcom genre itself.

2.1.2. Introducing the Friends series

Friends is a show that has brought new excitement and energy to some TV traditions that should be Must See: good acting, good writing, good producing, good humor, good intentions. This was a show about people – less about action than interaction. Through its highs and lows – through fame and fortune – this show with the friendly name kept the faith with its audience. It made us smile. It made us laugh at ourselves. It made us care about some other people, even if they only existed in our hearts and minds.”

David Wild (2004: 7)

The Friends series is a sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, successful writers and producers of other sitcoms such as Dream On, Joey or Veronica’s Closet. The sitcom does not have one director, it was directed by a lot of people throughout the ten years including its actor David Swimmer (10 episodes); to list just the most significant ones we should name Gary Halvorson, Kevin Bright (also its producer), Michael Lembeck, James Burrows, Gail Mancuso, Peter Bonerz, and Ben Weiss. The first episode of Friends, starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, was released on 22nd September in 1994 in the USA and TV continued to broadcast this series until 2004 in the total of 236 episodes. It gained its audience surprisingly quickly and due to its wide popularity, it has been awarded 57 wins including Golden Globe, American Comedy Award and Emmy in various categories such as Best Performance by an actor/actress, Best TV Series or Outstanding Comedy Series.

The series is divided into ten seasons, eight of them contain twenty-four episodes, one has twenty-five episodes and the last season only 20 episodes. The sitcom maps the lives of 6 young friends living in Manhattan, New York City. It can be described as a show about life, love, sex and work, but most of all it is about friendship. The audience accompanies all the six characters in their struggles to stand on their own feet at the very beginning, through their attempts to find suitable partners for life, and up to their efforts of starting families and keeping them working. It has no main hero, all the characters agreed to keep the ensemble format of the show and not allow one member to dominate.

The six main characters are normal, ordinary people, yet all of them are “goofy” in a way which is, in fact, the backbone of the series; it is a part of the magic David Crane and Marta Kauffman created. The scenes usually take place in Monica’s apartment or in their favourite coffee place “Central Perk”.

It was the normalcy of its theme, the extraordinary good situational and verbal humour, the quality of performance and the fact that its viewers watch the show really for pleasure that attracted the audiences all over the world. Not only it won many awards but it was also very successful in the ratings. Its significance for the Czech viewers can be proved by the fact that the series has just finished its second round of broadcasting on the Czech TV. The Czech Television bought the sitcom in 1997 for the first time and since then it has been quite a regular programme without which a lot of young people cannot imagine their late afternoons.

The sitcom Friends is one the most famous series in the history of the genre and as such has a considerable impact on the culture of its audience. That is the reason why a new haircut called “Rachel” was demanded at hairdresser’s all over the world as well as Joey’s pick-up line “How you doin’?” became a part of the Western English slang, or why a number of various imitations of the Central Perk coffee house were opened throughout the world. Joey Tribbiani

Matt LeBlanc’s character, Joey Tribbiani, is a unique man. He is a struggling actor who builds his career on acting in a famous series for a while. His career can be summed up as follows: if ever he gets a part, it is usually by mistake. He is of Italian origin and has seven sisters.

Two his main traits characterizing his role through the series are his cute stupidity and his cute himself that determines him as a notorious womanizer. Joey goes so far that in one episode he thinks he has slept with all the women in New York and goes around again because he remembers the girl’s apartment but does not recognize her. His famous phrase which is always effective when Joey wants to get a date with a woman is “How you doin’?” He keeps telling about himself that he is not marriage material - the only strong relationship he is willing to work on is his passion towards food. His girlfriends and food cannot interfere with each other, if they do (that is to say when a girl touches his plate to taste his food), it is usually the end of their relationship.

As regards women in his family and those who are his friends, he has a completely different attitude – he is very protective of them and would never let a guy hurt them – and who should know better than him what are guys like?

On the subject of his “cute” stupidity, it is really rather cuteness than stupidity. He is not aware of his limited abilities concerning knowledge and logical thinking. Actually, he is not really that bad, he is just slow. Joey’s best lines are usually those mute ones – when he does not say anything at all – because everybody is waiting for him to figure something out. It is a repeated joke throughout all the series, nevertheless, it does not live up to the saying “a repeated joke is no longer a joke”. On the contrary, it might even keep getting better.

Joey’s use of literary, very formal words results in comical situations, too - he does not know the meaning of them yet he wants to use them as the others do and keeps saying complete nonsense.

He behaves like a child most of the time – the perfect example can be found in episode 7 of season 6 where he is confused for a child because of the way he has written a recommendation letter for Monica and Chandler’s adoption procedure. Chandler Bing

Chandler Bing, portrayed by Matthew Perry, is probably the funniest character of them all, particularly because of his fixed idea that he is “the joke guy” (his jokes sometimes even work) and mainly because of his unbelievable facial and mimic gesticulation. No one of the friends can make such expressive faces, in other words make fool of himself, and be so lovable at the same time.

His sardonic attitude provides a defense mechanism which originated in his traumatic childhood. When he was ten years old his mother told him that she and his father are going to get divorced because his father cheated on her with their valet and this experience gave birth to his usage of sarcastic humour.

He is scared by commitment and responsibility, he is making jokes all the time and especially in the most inappropriate situations. He might seem, from time to time, to be ignored by the others – for example, when he comes wearing glasses and asks for their opinions, they think he is wearing his regular pair, they did not notice that he normally does not wear any.

None of them knows what he does for a living, they just do not remember. It can be illustrated more than perfectly on the following example: in season 7, episode 13, Phoebe sells toners by phone and when the person on the other side of the line says “It’s just that I, uh, have been working for ten years now at this meaningless, dead-end job and nobody here even knows I exist!”, Phoebe reacts: “Chandler?”.

He got to know Ross when they studied at the same university and he lived with Joey for six years before he moved across the hall to live with Monica. Ross and Joey claim that Chandler is their best friend but no one actually knows who of the two his best friend is. His most famous line is the rhetorical question “Could this BE any more….?”

Chandler was always unlucky with girls; perhaps the worst of them was Janice, the loud and bothersome “oh-my-god” girl who haunts him from the beginning till the end; the best was Monica who became his wife in season 7 and they adopted two children together. Ross Geller

Monica’s brother, unsure paleontologist and later college professor Ross played by David Schwimmer, is the last of the male characters of Friends. He is always having trouble with love; he is known for making bad decisions as regards marriage: he has been married three times and also divorced three times. His first wife, Carol was a lesbian. She got married to him and got pregnant by him before she found out her true sex orientation. His second wife, Emily, wanted to get a divorce immediately after the marriage ceremony because he confused her name with Rachel while saying the vows. His third wife was Rachel, they got drunk in Las Vegas and got married. They were not dating at that time – their relationship was on and off during throughout the series. In spite of getting the divorce, of which was Ross very afraid as it left him with the label “Divorces are your thing”, they got their happy ending after all at the very end of the sitcom.

Ross has two children: Ben, whose mother is Carol, and Emma, whose mother is Rachel. This dinosaur guy is a scientist in every pore of his body and often acts like it: he is trying to give lectures on paleontology for his ignorant friends and keeps correcting his friends’ grammar which really annoys them. Even though he has a sense of humour, it is quickly over when it comes to science and dinosaurs – in that area there is no place for joking. Monica Geller

Courteney Cox’s character, Monica Geller is very competitive, thorough, neat and caring person. She is a chef in a grand Manhattan restaurant and her favourite hobby is cleaning. Ross’s younger sister has obsessive-compulsive nature: she is really passionate about tidying of all kinds, if she sees a dirty car in front of her building, she just cannot resist. When Ross tells her about a girlfriend of his who is the messiest person he has ever met, she cannot sleep and goes to her messy apartment equipped by cleaning tools with a desperate plea for the girl to let her clean the apartment.

She is very bossy which Chandler experiences at first hand once he moves in with her and marries her. They play it cool, pretending in front of the others that he does not have to ask for permission to go to a match or go to the movies with the other guys, but actually he does have to ask. Nevertheless, they are both content with how it works. She is extremely competitive, it is not difficult to make her take a bet in anything and winning is a life-or-death question for her. Monica is the leader of the gang. She is a great cook, everyone gathers in her apartment for Thanksgivings, Christmases and all the feasts. When she was young, she was very obese; she radically lost weight only after overhearing Chandler’s conversation with Ross about her obesity.

She was not very lucky in love, two her most important relationships were with Richard Burke, with whom she broke up because he did not want children, and Chandler Bing to whom she got married in season 7 and with whom she adopted two children at the end of the series. Rachel Green

Jennifer Aniston’s naïve character, Rachel Green, is a fashion enthusiast and Monica’s best friend from high school. Her character has undergone a serious change throughout the series – at the beginning she was just a spoiled, rich girl who ran away from her wedding, at the end she was a self-assured, matured, confident woman who knew what she wanted to do with her life. Her friends helped her to find a job and become independent. She started as a waitress in Central Perk coffee house but ended up as a buyer at Ralph Lauren.

Rachel is very gossipy and enjoys teasing others very much. She is beautiful and is never short of admirers and possible boyfriends. But none of her relationships was that long and important as that with Ross. Their affair is repeatedly on and off throughout the series – she even marries him in season 5 and gives birth to his daughter Emma in season 8. They finally get together for good at the end of the series. Phoebe Buffay

The role of Phoebe Buffay was acted by Lisa Kudrow. Phoebe is the weirdest of the friends – she is very eccentric, some would even say crazy. She wears outlandish clothes, often acts cranky and nothing seems strange or inappropriate for her. She is very direct, says what she thinks and is very honest. She works as a masseuse and her favourite hobby is playing the guitar and singing her own original songs. Her musicality is questionable as well as her ability to compose. Nevertheless, her inventive songs are very popular – a recording company even asked to record a demo of her most popular song “Smelly Cat”. It is sung at the end by someone else but loony Phoebe does not notice – she says she can finally hear her voice properly.

Phoebe is a vegetarian and a passionate defender of animals and the weak. She helps the homeless in the streets because she knows first hand what it is like. Her mother gave her and her twin sister Ursula up, their father ran away when they were little and when their step-mother killed herself when Phoebe was only 14, she suddenly found herself alone in the street. That is how she got experience with mugging and fighting. Later she finds out she has a step-brother, Frank Junior. When he and his wife cannot have children, she agrees to be a surrogate mother for their three babies.

She believes in horoscopes and fortune-tellers, ghosts and everything occult. She marries Mike Hannigan in season 9 which ends the series of her funny love stories. She is very inventive and can find a way out of every sticky situation she gets herself and her friends to. As her portrayer Lisa Kudrow says in Wild’s The One with All Ten Years “Phoebe gets a little stronger, a little more mature, a little crankier, and a little more real over the years” (2004: 91).

2.1.3. Focus on Audience - Teen/Adult

“An additional consideration is the purpose for which the translation is intended. Particularly in the case of culture-bound texts, the degree of intervention by the translator will often depend on consumers and their needs. This matter is not to be underestimated and may in certain cases even override ST communicative intentions”

(Hatim & Mason, 1997: 190).

Hatim and Mason sum up in the previous citation the factors to which producers must pay attention before deciding on the mode of audio-visual translation. Gambier rates cinema goers as being usually young, educated and computer-literate which predetermines them as suitable viewers of subtitled films (Gambier: online). TV viewers can be, in contrast, divided into highly varied groups starting with children and ending with elderly people. There are differences between types of reception on the part of viewers, Kovačič summarizes them as response
(perceptual decoding), reaction (what shared knowledge must be assumed to allow efficient communication?) and repercussion (what are the viewers’ preferences regarding the mode of AVT?) (Kovačič in Gambier: online).

All these factors must be taken into account before settling on a particular mode of audio-visual translation. When producing a programme for TV, several sociological variables of its potential viewers such as age, level of education, hearing or sight difficulties, reading abilities or command of foreign languages should be considered as well as audio-visual variables, for example broadcasting time, type of the TV channel or genre of the audio-visual document. Dubbing is generally seen as a form of domestication whereas subtitling can be regarded as foreignization.

In case of Friends, I suspect that the key factor which overruled all the others was the tradition of dubbing as the preferred mode of audio-visual translation in the Czech Republic. Not that much thought was given to the probable group of potential viewers neither to the broadcasting time because at the very beginning, in 1996, the sitcom was broadcasted in night hours and such a placement would not necessarily exclude subtitling. The question is: if the sitcom was brought on the Czech TV nowadays, would it influence the choice of the AVT mode? What needs to be taken into account is the recent considerable growth of command of English among the group of viewers who usually watch this sitcom.

2.2. Audio-visual Translation

“Audiovisual language transfer denotes the process by which a film or television programme is made comprehensible to a target audience that is unfamiliar with the original’s source language”

(Luyken, 1991: 11).

2.2.1. Differences between Audio-visual and Conventional Translation

Hatim summarizes the work of translators by the following sentence: “Translators convey and in part recreate other people’s massages” (Hatim, 1993: x). This is true not only for conventional translation but for the audio-visual translation as well, however, strictly speaking, there are not many features that audiovisual and conventional translations share. They have two things in common and that is the fact that both of them are labeled as “translations” and both of them strive to get across the same meaning that was communicated in the source-language. But this is as far as their resemblance goes. Both of them have their own specific particularities that need to be respected in order to achieve a quality translation.

Their creators use the process of translation but with different approaches as the determining essential factor for their final shape is space. As regards literary translation, it is usually not limited in any “spatial” terms (except for translation of poetry); translators just have to recreate the original text in the target language in the closest possible way. The number of characters, words or spaces between them is not restricted in any way, the source language text could be twice as long if it is necessary for carrying the original meaning, nuances or tones, although it never happens since translators are trying to hold true to Grice’s maxim of quantity to make one’s contribution as informative as (but not more informative than) is required (Hatim & Mason, 1990: 62). If something in the text requires further explanation, they can use footnotes or they can insert a necessary explanation directly into the text. No such a thing is possible in audio-visual translation, perhaps except for “free” subtitles where unprofessional subtitlers include something similar to a footnote, even though it should be avoided in this type of AVT at all costs.

Literary translation involves transferring a text from one language to another. It means that a new work is created and thus replaces the original. In this sense, these two works are completely independent of each other as the target text can be used on its own and the reader will understand the message. However, translating a film is always inseparably interconnected with the visual part of the deal – the image creates a major part of the media as well as sound, acting and language. That is to say they are never independent of each other. The visual part remains the same; it is the auditory component that is altered. As regards subtitling, both visual and auditory elements are preserved and the written translation is added to the original material – in this case, the written text is dependent on the original source text.

According to Luyken, audio-visual translation

“is at one and the same time both more and less than conventional translation. Less, because it does not translate everything. More, because the audiovisual Translator/Writer has to make editorial decisions all the time about omissions or condensation of the original text, and about new information that has to be inserted into it. This all has profound implications for the programme which is subject to any form of Language Transfer”

(1991: 154).

This has a lot to do with the difference between an average word length of the languages involved in the process of translation, for instance Czech and English. The English language has a large number of short words and phrases which do not have equally short counterparts in Czech and it inevitably results in condensation of the translated text.

In the light of the needs of audio-visual translation, the constraints imposed by it immensely influence the final form of this linguistic transfer. Some translation theorists have argued if it is still a translation or rather an adaptation. As Díaz Cintas puts it, these ideas are considered “outdated and lie behind the relative lack of interest in this professional activity on the part of the translation scholars” (Díaz Cintas in Anderman, 2003: 194).

There are, indeed, many other features which differentiate conventional translation from audio-visual translation and which might be specific for its individual modes. In the point of view of this thesis, the one which is of close interest to us is dubbing. According to Kautský, the main distinction between dubbing and conventional translation is the fact that in dubbing the translation is just one of the initial stages of this mode of AVT. The translation is further worked with and modified for the demands of successful dubbing. Kautský claims that translator produces a word-for-word translation which sometimes includes several suggestions as to how something could be translated. What is the most important aspect at this stage is that the translator understands the meaning of the text perfectly and thus can convey it to the target language. The rest is a task for an adaptor who can properly finish the job by synchronizing.

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