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Diachronic models of TV dubbing on contemporary Italian.

Abstract: As the language of TV dubbing has remained an important model for the Italian language, this paper compares the Italian-dubbed American TV serials with serials from different periods. The hypothesis is that Toury's laws of translational behavior (1995) have more impact on contemporary dubbed serials than on those of the past, thus determining more important effects of linguistic contact. Therefore, features of the source text could have a stronger influence on the target text, and "translation universais" could become more evident. The diachronic analysis of a corpus of TV serials reveals a major presence of English in modern TV language dubbed in Italian, for both external and internal elements (i.e., syntactic structures and lexical caiques, respectively), and, especially, a rise in language's predictability. The research also reveals a complex intersection between positive and negative interferences of English on Italian language.

Keywords: contemporary Italian, audiovisual translation, dubbed TV serials.

1. Anglo-American Dubbed Serials' Relevance to Italian TV

TV serials have replaced traditional media channels such as literature, theatre, and cinema, creating a new relationship between audience and products. This type of media renders an affective relationship which enables the audience to mirror itself in the stories and in the characters of TV series, with a type of relationship which is often stronger than that between readers and novels or their literary characters.

Anglo-American dubbed serials have played an important role in the history of Italian television, in both quantitative and qualitative aspects, offering important linguistic and sociolinguistic models to Italian audiences.

These serials have thus gained an important place in the research on the history of the language of Italian television, which Accademia della Crusca and the Universities of Catania, Firenze, Genova, Roma3, Milano, and Tuscia have recently carried out. (1)

There are several features of the history of Italian TV that have had important effects on the variety of the broadcast language. At the end of the 1970s, Italian TV reached a turning point that divided its history into two periods with highly distinct features (Monteleone 1992; Alfieri-Bonomi 2012). Eco in 1983 spoke about "paleotelevision" and "neotelevision". PaleoTV began with national broadcasting in 1954 and ran until 1976, characterized by the monopoly of Rai, the national broadcasting station. Television programs in this period were inspired by a strong pedagogic purpose, based on the three principles proposed by John Reith for BBC: TV had to educate, to inform, and to entertain the audience. (2)

The language of paleoTV programs was not far from Standard Italian, as it was modelled on that of literary texts and was often unnatural and different from spoken Italian. In contrast, neoTV, which has been broadcast from 1976 until today, is often characterized by the presence and influence of private broadcasting stations, among which the most important were those belonging to Silvio Berlusconi. (3)

This situation deeply transformed the hierarchy of values for TV managers: obeying market laws and seeking an immediate economic advantage, they made entertainment the most important element of Reith's triad (more relevant than education and information). As a consequence, the language of most of the programs has drifted away from Standard Italian, becoming more prone to Neostandard Italian and to different varieties of the repertoire.

A common understanding of paleoTV is that it is "univocal and sometimes conventional, almost oleographic" (my translation, Menduni 2010:18), yet the American influence is underestimated, as it is of low importance for paleoTV. This influence is partially due to the work of important personalities like Mike Bongiorno, the famous anchor who breathed American style into Italian TV, and partially to serials and products imported from the States. From the beginning of Italian broadcasting, the dubbing of serials and soap operas have provided direct contact with foreign products and, as occurred with cinema, this may have mitigated the linguistic compactness of in-house TV productions. In fact, as Menduni states, in paleoTV, "strong social control on TV temporarily mutilated the most subversive and innovative features of the medium and of its languages, which instead were already developed in the States" (19).

Over the course of Italian broadcasting, American serials grew more important, particularly from the 1980s onwards. The necessity of acquiring a large number of foreign products in order to feed a rich TV program came as a consequence of the competition between Rai and Mediaset (Monteleone 1992). The number of serials to dub created a sudden increase in the demand of adaptors and dubbers: "starting from the 35-40 people which were enough before the era of private channels now there were almost 300, many of whom had entered in that world almost by chance" (Paolinelli 37). Yet, they were less prepared --or at least linguistically less cautious--and therefore more prone to interference between the source language and target language. It is thus possible to think about those adaptors as active creators of many of the linguistic features of dubbed language that would later on become typical of "dubbese".

2. About Audiovisual Translation

Such intense and protracted contact with Anglo-American serials merits investigation into the possible effects that dubbed programs could have had on viewers' linguistic habits. Translation, in fact, is one of the fields where the effects of linguistic contact are stronger than in other areas: the phenomena of direct interference may occur during translation, involving a translator's linguistic production; these phenomena can then be widely spread by the diffusion of the translated text (Garzone 2008:108). The effects of linguistic contact are thus amplified in that the interfered text is spread even among receivers who may not understand the foreign language and who, without translation, would not have been concerned with it. The effects of this process are even stronger in audiovisual translation rather than in text translation due to the medium's wider audiences and the fact that social and cultural differences allow translated texts to reach people who have less cultural instruments to protect themselves from such interferences.

Apart from the quantitative relevance of dubbed texts, an analysis of their linguistic features must also consider the qualitative aspects that characterize the medium. First, it is important to underline the distinctive features of audiovisual texts, which include the complex constructions that exploit different channels and different codes. As highlighted by Sabatini (1982), cinema and TV texts must reproduce the spoken language, simulating its naturalness; dubbed texts must cope with a double simulation, having the "difficult task to re-create in target language a warp of simulated spoken language that mirrors source text's simulated spoken language" (my translation, Pavesi 1995:10). Moreover, dubbed texts require dealing with constrained translations in which oral and visual channels have to be integrated in order to be fully accepted by the audience, allowing the public to identify itself in the stories (Chaume 2007). One of the first kind of constrictions to consider is that of lip-sync, which implies different varieties of difficulties: in fact, it may apply to quantitative aspects, like those connected to the length of words and to mouth movements, or qualitative ones, like those involving pitches of the voice or language speed, which are related to sociolinguistic elements. Another side of synchronism pertains to paralinguistic elements, and especially to connections between spoken language and body movement. The strictest constriction, then, is that of images, which deeply embed every text in the source culture and, regardless of translation quality, produce cultural interferences in receivers. As Fawcet states (in Denton 24), "in a dubbed film we are constantly aware through images and non-matching mouth movements of the presence of a foreign language and culture". Therefore, the culture of the source text produces strong interferences in the target text regarding dress codes, lifestyles, or signals that pertain to non-verbal communication. The effects of all of these elements are more powerful in the translation and dubbing of TV texts, due to the differences that distinguish them from dubbed cinema.

It is worth highlighting the main differences between TV and cinema translation, as these kinds of audiovisual (ADV) texts can only be partially assimilated. TV texts are less prestigious than cinema texts, and thus their translation will easily present a higher number of traits calqued on the source text. Moreover, TV texts spread more widely and deeply than the other kind of texts because they enter into people's private space and often coexist with activities of everyday life, so the audience is more vulnerable, less concentrated, and more susceptible to interferences. The "comfort factor" of this kind of text is quite high: the audience seeks an enjoyable and easy to decode product, so translations tend to be more banal as translators prefer easier and more ordinary solutions than those chosen in cinema.

Another factor for analyzing ADV texts in comparison to everyday spoken texts is that of predictability, which is stronger in TV texts because their language is more repetitive. As Taylor highlighted, language predictability has shown itself to be genre based, and each genre has specific features. Each genre also has its sub-genres and genrelets, or "particular instantiations of a higher genre (e.g., a department meeting in the cardiology department of a hospital)," like a love scene or an emergency call (4). In these kind of genrelets, especially in TV, "there is little room for creative language use. The intertextual nature of such speech events is illustrated by the same formulae being used over and over again, with the same cues and the same response mechanism" (4). This is more evident in translated texts, because if the language of originals is stylized and far from a natural language, it appears to be even less spontaneous in its translated versions.

The research perspective that I adopted is in line with contemporary translation studies, which mark a change with past perspectives. In fact, many scholars no longer focus their attention on the relations between source text and target text in order to find a dichotomy between a literal and a free translation (in a source oriented perspective), but instead aim to study the target text in the context of the cultural and linguistic system in which it has been produced. Therefore, with a descriptive and target oriented perspective, it is important to consider the nature of the target text compared to similar text of in-house productions. It is also important to notice whether the dubbed text has any feature that may depend on the English model of the source text, which could influence comparable texts. Interference is thus not considered a linguistic element to fight against, even if some features of 'dubbese' have the effect of trivializing the text, and are so relevant that some scholars talk about a "third norm" (Pavesi 2005). Rather, interference is one of the possible influencing factors in dubbed text, which merits further study.

Until now, the majority of researchers have focused their attention on single case studies, mostly regarding serials of contemporary TV, as this field of research is relatively new. They analyzed stylistic or linguistic elements of serials in a source oriented or target oriented perspective, but none of them diachronically analyzed the Italian language in dubbed serials. A diachronic perspective may help determine whether there are any differences in modalities by which translators have approached Anglo-American texts. A question arising from this framework may be, has the language of dubbed serials gone through an evolution, from paleo to neoTV, and if so, how has it changed? This method may produce some interesting answers. On the one hand, it will be possible to consider whether the language of TV dubbing has had its peculiar features from the start. On the other hand, it will be possible to consider whether the English model has had different levels of impact on the Italian language in different periods.

3. A Diachronic Research

Seeking answers to the above questions, I based my diachronic analysis on a corpus of American serials for a total of seven hours of broadcast programming dubbed in Italian. The broadcast serials, whose scripts I transcribed for closer analysis, belong to some of the most successful genres, which presumably had a stronger impact as linguistic models on the audience. For each genre, I have chosen a serial of paleoTV and of neoTV, composing a corpus that can be analyzed from different perspectives. It is possible to follow the diachronic evolution of each genre, with its peculiar features that aim to fulfill audience expectations. It is also possible to highlight the features of two large blocks of programs related to the different periods of the history of Italian TV. The corpus consists of one episode from each of the following serials:

Science fiction

Star trek, (ST), "Il duplicato", 1966 (dubbed in 1981).

The X Files, (XF) "Deep throat", 1993.

Family and teen

Vita da strega, (VS) "Samantha incontra i suoceri"; "Baseball che passione", 1966 (dubbed in 1979). (4)

Una mamma per arnica, (MA) "La cena di Natale", 2000 (dubbed in 2002).

Police drama

CSI, "Assassini per caso", 2003.

Starsky & Hutch, (SH) "Domenica violenta", 1975 (dubbed in 1979).

Legal drama

Perry Mason (PM) "Proiettile nella sabbia", 1959 (dubbed in 1960).

Law & Order. I due volti della giustizia, (LO) "Una complessa personalita", 1993.

I also considered including a medical drama in my research, but I could not find an adequate archetype for ER until now, the serial that marked a turning point in the history of American products in Italy. Many of the serial's linguistic features, such as syntactic speed or the large number of technical terms, which very often are more important for their connotative value rather than for their denotative one, have deeply influenced other dubbed serials as well as domestic productions. For this reason, I also analyzed one episode of the serial, but I used data only for a comparison with the rest of the corpus, without adding them to the total number of examples.

To frame and interpret the data, I refer to Toury's laws of translation behavior (1995), which locate general tendencies and behaviors in translations so typical to be considered "translation universals". First, the law of interference states that phenomena pertaining to the makeup of the source text tend to be transferred to the target text. It affects all levels of the text, from lexis to syntax, as well as pragmatics and textual structure; it also depends on a cognitive mechanism and must not be seen as a strict rule but as a regularity in behavior that has become apparent in analyzing translations in corpora of different varieties of texts. Although the law's effects could be virtually zero with careful and acute translators, such instances tend to occur with more prestigious texts, like a literary text or an author's translation, which is nearer to a newly rewritten text with a low rate of interferences from the source language. In contrast, analyzing corpora of popular texts (e.g., dubbed texts, best sellers, and popular literature) reveals that "in a vast majority of cases translators chose an approach nearer to transcoding than to rewriting: the structure of texts, of periods and even of utterances is calqued on that of the source text" (my translation, Garzone, 112).

Linguistic facets of a translated text may part from that of a native text because the former is subjected to direct contact to the source text, and also because it shows peculiar features that are typical of all translated products (features that are not directly dependent on the source text). The law of growing standardization underlines this concept in that "more habitual options offered by a target repertoire" are often used in translation. One of the most common translation universais is explicitation, or the tendency to say in a clear and pedantic way what in the source text was only implicit or given as an assumption (Pavesi-Tomasi 133). Presumably, the effects of both of the laws are stronger for TV texts, as the Skopos of these texts is that of entertaining the audience in an undemanding way.

The hypothesis is that Toury's laws more heavily impact contemporary dubbed serials compared to serials of the past, determining more important effects of linguistic contact. Therefore, features of the source text may have a stronger influence on the target text, and "translation universals" may be more evident in contemporary texts.

4. Common Features of Past and Present Dubbed Language

As a matter of fact, a comparison between serials of paleoTV and those of neoTV reveals that they share some common features that can therefore be considered typical features of TV dubbed in Italian from any era.

Among the strategies more commonly exploited to simulate spoken language, there is the use of focus constructions such as dislocations and cleft sentences. Their primary effect is to render natural spontaneous conversation, but they can also compensate for the sociolinguistic leveling that comes with the passage from the source text to target text. Focus constructions often mark the emphasis given in the original text with other instruments, especially with intonation (Pavesi 1995).

One main feature of ADV translated language, which marks a difference with ADV non-translated language, is the pre-eminence of right dislocations instead of left ones (Pavesi 2005). More than the others, common in literature and in monologues, right dislocations are typical of face-to-face conversation and of dialogue (Rossi); this is even more distinctive in English, a language in which right dislocations vehicle afterthoughts. Their presence in the corpus is more or less the same in the first and in the second group of serials: there are 33 right dislocations in paleoTV, 23 in neoTV, and 13 in the show ER. In most cases, these constructions do not result from a direct translation that caiques the exact order of English words. What is more striking is that a majority of cases include dislocations that create almost formulaic fixed structures, for example, when clitic + vb. sapere appears in a structure that Berruto in 1986 considered to be "at a high level of grammaticalization". These are easy choices for the translator because they are unmarked in the target system and therefore undemanding both for production and reception, just as Toury's law states.

Another example of this tendency is that 81% of right dislocations in the serial Vita da Strega can be considered formulaic (nine cases out of 11): seven are present in the structure lo so che, directly translating only three times the English I know that; in one case there is the verb dire; and in another case there is a double clitic construction with the verb avere (ce I'ho).
Lo sapevo che avresti capito         I knew you'd understand

Lo sapevo che saresti stato          I knew you'd wanted me to go with
d'accordo                            him

Lo sapevo che papa stava             I knew pap was kidding

Lo sai che Marshall e entrato in     Marshall made the team

lo lo so dov'e!                      --

Lo sapevo che Darrin aveva ancora    It's nice there is something you
bisogno della sua mammina            need your mother for

Ma lo sai che questa e una stanza    This is a lovely room

Ce l'ho gia una scopa                I already have a broom

Ve lo avevo detto che non vi         I told you I wouldn't wait for you
avrei aspettato

In Una mamma per amica there is a similar case, but with a different

La smetta di dire si certo!          And stop saying you will

Overall, there is a formulaic nature present in 70% of the right dislocations of paleoTV serials, in 56% of neoTV serials, and in 30% of ER.

Left dislocations are also quite common in the corpus texts: there are 18 of them in serials of paleoTV, 11 in modern serials, and 9 in ER.
L'estate dopo I'ho passata al       The result is me being sent to
campeggio delle suore (MA)          Bible camp all summer

Di rottami come quello ce ne        That old wreck is like other 1000
saranno almeno un migliaio (S&H)    old wrecks

Questo lo diceva un mio             That's what my 2nd grade teacher
professore a proposito dei          said about the Beatles
Beatles (L&O)

Selena. Quella la metterei nel      Wow. Selena can defrag my hard
mio hard disk volentieri (CSI)      drive at any time

Stai dicendo che i dolori se li e   You were faking those abdominal
inventati? (ER)                     pains?

Among focus constructions, cleft sentences seem to be more directly influenced by the source text, of which they closely reproduce the original word order. In this case, the total number of occurrences is slightly higher for paleoTV serials, perhaps because earlier serials were characterized by a more complex syntax. There are 18 cleft sentences in old serials, 12 in modern serials, and 9 in ER.
L'estate dopo l'ho passata al        The result is me being sent to
campeggio delle suore (MA)           Bible camp all summer

Di rottami come quello ce ne         That old wreck is like other 1000
saranno almeno un migliaio (S&H)     old wrecks

Questo lo diceva un mio              That's what my 2nd grade teacher
professore a proposito dei           said about the Beatles
Beatles (L & O)

Selena. Quella la metterei nel       Wow. Selena can defrag my hard
mio hard disk volentieri (CST)       drive at any time

Stai dicendo che i dolori se li e    You were faking those abdominal
inventati? (ER)                      pains?

At the same time, there are other kinds of constructions in the corpus that resemble cleft sentences whose main function is emphasis: the construction known as c'e presentativo (with six cases in the first group, five in the second, and three in ER) and other structures are used to divide the elements of the sentence, providing relevance to one or the other specific element, like the e che / non e che sentence:
Se c'e qualcosa che non va           Tell me if there is anything
dimmelo pure (PM)                    wrong

Ci sono due poliziotti che li        Tell them that two cops are
stanno cercando (S&H)                looking for them

Questo posto non e che mi piaccia    --
molto (MA)

Tag questions, which are also used to render natural spoken language, are common to both groups of serials, even though they differ in frequency. Although using tag questions is typical of English, it is less common in Italian. It is thus possible to consider the use of tag questions a "positive" interference, which influences the use frequency of an element already existing in the target language system. From an initial survey, it seems that in-house TV texts present a lower number of tag questions and, above all, of a less rich variety. In the majority of cases, the element in the question is no? or the interjection eh?. In the paleoTV serials, there are 44 tag questions, 26 in neoTV serials, and 9 in ER. The elements more commonly tagged are no? sa? vero? non e vero? d'accordo?; in modern serials we also find ok?. In some cases, tag questions were absent from the English texts and were inserted from adaptors in Italian ones. The only serial in which no tag question appears is Star trek, which is also the only one without any right dislocation: the episode analyzed in the corpus is characterized by a very slow rhythm and by a language sounding quite unnatural. The lack of this kind of structure shows how important focus constructions and tag questions are to vehicle an acceptable simulation of spoken language.

Despite the fact that the traits examined are present in different quantities in the two groups of serials, they are important features of both of them and can therefore be considered typical of the language of TV dubbing.

5. Changes and Evolution in Television Dubbed Language

The most evident changes in TV dubbing are due to the different nature of the texts that are dubbed, e.g., the dialogue in paleoTV serials were closer to Standard Italian, with a clear, simulated spoken language similar to that used in theatre. Gradually, American serials began to take on wider internal differences in characters, regarding both their social levels and the range of linguistic varieties used to portray them. Yet, in the process of dubbing, there was a sociolinguistic leveling that occurred particularly on the characters' phonetics; to mitigate this tendency, adaptors used many morpho-syntactic traits of spoken language. They then began to introduce other compensative strategies such as a higher number of swearwords when the original text did not present them, as well as the explicitation of double meanings, which in some cases were only implicit in source texts and in other cases were completely absent. Among the texts of the corpus on which this research is based, these strategies are more exploited in Starsky & Hutch, a significant serial in that it belonged to the period that saw the shift from paleoTV to neoTV and because it is an example of a less sophisticated and more popular genre. Starsky & Hutch is also an example of a serial with higher rates of dubbese stereotypes, as in the use of amico to render the vocative man, or that of bambola when referring to a girl, or the almost fixed formula vacci piano to translate take it easy. In the episode transcribed, the marked language of a black man from New York was leveled, but in the Italian version some hints of him being gay were introduced in order to preserve a certain peculiarity. Another example is the transformation of a simple character's remark to the cops into in a real insult:

--Cops! They're weird!

--Ma andate a farvi fottere sporchi piedipiatti!

Something similar, if less evident, occurs when Get out of the way is translated with Levatevi dalle scatole, or when in the Italian version of CSI a black robber uses swearwords absent in the original:

--Sai, a scuola eri un coglione Brown.

--You know, at school you were a nerd

All of these examples refer to the genre of police drama. It is important to notice that even in the cases shown above, as it is typical, adaptors had to fulfill the audience's horizon of expectations, while Italian viewers are used to such a language in this kind of serial.

The largest differences within the corpus relate to the direct presence of English, which nowadays seems to be much more evident, starting from the paratext and titles. Although English language was present even in older titles, it was present almost exclusively in character names. In contrast, many titles now retain their English words, even if this will interfere with audience comprehension. There is often a subtitle in Italian that helps to clarify general meaning. Sometimes the subtitle is added in the dubbed Italian version, like in ER, whose subtitle is Medici in prima linea, or, in Law & Order, it is I due volti della giustizia. In contrast, in CSI the original subtitle is translated in Italian even if it loses its immediate reference to the title, as CSI is no longer the acronym for Scena dal crimine.

NeoTV serials tend to make English inscriptions standout, thus purposefully avoiding a complete embeddedness of dubbed texts. In Law & Order all captions localizing the scene are kept in the original language; often, but not always, a partial translation is provided:

1) Appartamento Di Paige Bartlett. Lunedi 16 Marzo

Paige Bartlett Apartment.

333 E. 66Th Street. Monday, March 16

2) Ned Loomis's Apartment

3 Sutton Place

Friday, March 27.

This tendency is even more evident in X Files, where captions are maintained entirely in the original language. Important deictic references on the screen appear in English, such as F.B.I. Headquarters or Outside Ellens Air base, 6.04 PM or One week later.

Although it is possible to find English loans in both groups of serials, loans appear more frequently in the most recent serials while absent from Perry Mason and Star Trek (except for the spaceship's name, the Enterprise).

Among the most studied features of ADV translation, there is the redundant explicit use of personal pronouns and often possessive adjectives. These traits also appear in the analyzed corpus but with different rates of occurrence: their frequency is higher in old serials compared to new ones. A systematic use of personal pronouns avoidable in Italian where the grammatical person is marked on the verb--can depend on English interference and can also occur in cases with a more explicit grammatical reference, typical in ADV translation (Pavesi 2005; Garzone). The explicit use of pronouns in Italian often have important pragmatic functions, such as emphasis, contrast, and identification in opposition to other referents. When pronouns are not necessary, it is possible to imagine a direct interference of the source text on the target one. This happens especially when the pronoun is an important anaphor, referring to something or someone just mentioned without any trace of emphasis. Similar cases appear more frequently in old serials, where there are 184 occurrences, rather than in modern ones (120 occurrences). Moreover, examples in paleoTV are more salient. A possible explanation may be that past adaptors were less experienced and less prepared to face such interferences, while they would become easily detectable later on.

--che accadde quando tu riuscisti a raggiungerla nel bosco? (PM)

--Beh, io non ho molto da dire veramente (PM)

--Se dovesse succedermi ancora io le chiedo di dirmelo subito (ST)

--Lei dice sempre di no// e poi lei non sa che sono qui// (VS)

Similarly, there is also the redundant use of possessive adjectives, especially common in serials of paleoTV like Perry Mason or Star Trek:

Perry Mason:

--se assomiglia a suo padre se la cavera benissimo.

--io non voglio averci a che fare per quanti milioni possa avere suo marito.

--All'improwiso il nostro battello di gomma si rovescio ...

--Lo aiutai a rialzarsi e a salire sul suo furgone.

Star Trek

--l'impostore potra essere identificato da alcuni graffi sulla sua faccia.

--lei sta perdendo la sua capacite di decidere.

--Che gli succede? le sue funzioni organiche si sono indebolite.

A comparison between paleoTV and neoTV serials reveals that the latter have a quicker rhythm, distinguished by more dynamicity. This is partially due to the effect of modern cinematographic techniques and partially to linguistic elements. Speech rhythm is very slow in Star Trek and quite theatrical in Perry Mason; in contrast, the other serials' speech becomes much quicker. ER sees the height of this tendency, where fastness is functional to a realistic characterization of an emergency room. It is clear that the language of dubbed serials is much quicker than those of domestic TV serials, and is thus an important model for Italian speech.

The syntax of American serials, and especially that of modern programs, is easier and quicker than that of Italian serials. There are a lot of coordinated utterances that sometimes become subordinate clauses in translation:

--Called by her roommate. Came over the apartment and found her.

--Abita con un'amica che e quella che ha chiamato hospedale. (LO)

--No, no way. They had an argument. Wasn't their first. She wanted him to leave. He didn't want to go. She cried.

--No, stanno insieme. Hanno litigato ma non e la prima volta. Lui non le dava retta allora lei ha cominciato a piangere. (LO)

--Is he in custody? And if he's in custody have you read him his rights? And if you haven't read him his rights I want him out, now!

--Il mio cliente e sotto custodia quindi gli avrete letto quali sono i suoi diritti, ma se non lo avete fatto voglio che esca! (LO)

--You liked that noise so much? You're staying!

--Se ti piaceva tanto tutto quel chiasso potevi restare. (SH)

--I'm employee number seven. Kuan was employee number six. Big brain the reputation. My boss by random chance.

--lo ero l'impiegato numero sette. Kuan era l'impiegato numero sei. Fama di grande cervello, mio capo ma soltanto per caso. (CSI)

Syntax built per small blocks is a trait pertaining to both English and Italian linguistic systems. It can therefore be taken as an example of positive interference, as the English model has probably played a role in increasing the frequency of Italian cases. In CSI there are a lot of examples of sintassi nominale, or without the verb, an effective instrument to render technicity, efficiency, and dynamicity:

--Blunt force trauma. Minimal seepage around the wound. No blood in the floor.

--Trauma da corpo contundente, minimo gocciolamento di sangue sulla ferita, niente sangue sul pavimento. (CSI)

--Any trace of the weapon?

--Nothing obvious. No windows, only one way in or out.

--Tracce dell'arma?

--Nessuna per ora. Niente finestre solo un punto di entrata e di uscita. (CSI)

Moving from paleoTV to neoTV, the lower number of redundant pronouns and possessive adjectives may suggest a minor influence of Toury's laws, but it is possible to assume the opposite view on syntactic and especially lexical and phraseological calques.

Caiques are peculiar features of ADV translation, and there are plenty of them throughout the entire corpus. What is different, though, is their distribution and their dynamic within the corpus. For example, in older serials there are some inversions of the noun and adjective, which would seldom appear in the more modern programs of the corpus and which can be labeled "ordinary" or even "surface" interferences. For example, utterances like "Studiare i piu oscuri meccanismi umani" or "una insolita circostanza" sound rather unnatural in Italian.

On the contrary, the older generation of translators and adaptors paid a lot of attention to stronger interferences, avoiding many of those stereotypes that would have become typical of dubbese as time progressed. The following example is from Vita da Strega, the translation of which shows some suitable solutions close to traditional Italian that avoid English interference:

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The serial that once again marked a striking innovation is Starsky & Hutch, an example of a new kind of American product that was very important in the history of Italian TV as well as an example of a new policy in translations. In the episode transcribed, there are many caiques and many translational routines:

====for insert jpg 183

The diachronic approach of this research has signified the changing translational behavior from within the corpus, especially in cases where the same word or expression is translated in different ways. It is therefore possible to follow the creation of a caique that at first was avoided in favor of more natural expressions but that gradually entered into the target language system. I found several examples that pertain to lexis or phraseology, like il mio nome e on the blueprint of my name is instead of the more natural mi chiamo.


How long have they been eating this garbage? Da quanto tempo mangiano questa schifezza? (S&H) The Beatles were great, this is garbage. I Beatles erano grandi, questa e spazzatura. (LO)

   You might as well relax.
   Allora e inutile che ti precipiti. (VS)

   Rilassati! (MA)

   Just relax.
   Si rilassi. (XF)

   (My / the) name is ...
   My name is Kirkwood....
   Mi chiamo Kirkwood ... (PM)

   Know his name?
   Sa il nome? (LO)

   You got the denim's name?
   Conosce il nome di quell'uomo? (LO)

   Name vitctim's is Garreth Kuan.
   Il nome della vittima e Garreth Kuan (CSI)

Crime scene

How do you explain this is the crime scene caught 5 seconds after Peres' death?

Come spiega questo fatto se e la scena del delitto ripresa cinque secondi dopo la morte di Peres? (PM)

Your Honor this evidence is crucial, and all we want is to establish the defendant's presence at the scene of the crime.

Questo test e determinante perche potra stabilire se 1'imputato si trovava sul luogo del crimine (LO)

What are you doing taking Archie on the field instead of me? perche sulla scena del crimine porti Archie invece di me? (CSI)

In the end, serials of neoTV have a higher rate of occurrence for caiques that can be labelled lexical and syntactic. What is more important is that many of these caiques have now firmly entered into the linguistic system of contemporary Italian. The following list includes some of the most evident caiques found in the corpus.

Una mamma per arnica

Dean: Am I like public enemy number one with you?

--e ora lei mi considera il nemico pubblico numero uno, vero? (*il suo peggior nemico) (5)

Lorelai: my mind is a complete blank.

--che strano, si dice che in occasioni come queste uno dovrebbe ricordare tutti i bei momenti vissuti col proprio padre [...] e invece la mia mente e completamente vuota (*Non mi viene nulla in mente)

Lorelai: End of story.

--ero nel suo locale quando ho avuto il messaggio. Lui mi ha accompagnata. Fine della storia (*tutto qui).

Rory: Thanks for bringing her

--Grazie per averia accompagnata. (*grazie di)

Lorelay: You know what I think?

--Sai una cosa? (*sai che ti dico?)

The X-Files

Scully: Hi, I got your message.

--Ciao, ho avuto il tuo messaggio. (*ho ricevuto il tuo messaggio)

Mulder: that's the 64.000 dollar question!

--Domanda da cento milioni di dollari, agente Scully!

Law & Order

Max: kids today they do drugs, sex is like a drink of water. No wonder they get in trouble.

--I giovani hanno perso ogni valore, il sesso e diventato acqua fresca (*il sesso e una cosa da nulla), e chiaro che alia fine si drogano.

Girl: Acted volunteer in the hospital.

--Prestava servizio volontario in ospedale. (*faceva volontariato)

Polly: He loves hot spots.

--so che spesso vanno al Cooper's bar. Dice che lui adora i posti caldi.

(*posti alia moda)

Man: What's the problem?

--Qual e il problema? (*cosa c'e che non va?)


Warrick: How did it go?

--Mi displace amico, mi displace. Sono venuto appena ho potuto. Com'e andata? (*cos'e successo?)

Anders: I am employee number seven, Kuan was employee number six. Big brain the reputation, my boss by random chance.

--Io sono l'impiegato numero sette, Kuan era l'impiegato numero sei. Fama di grande cervello (* persona geniale), mio capo ma soltanto per caso.

Anders: He seemed to be one step ahead on his own doings.

--Lui era sempre un passo avanti a tutti noi (*era piu in gamba di tutti)

Selena: I was just trying to let him know I was available, ok? Low pressure

--cercavo solo di fargli capire che ero disponibile, ok? Nessuna pressione (*non l'ho forzato)

6. Final Considerations

The diachronic analysis of the corpus showed a major presence of English in modern TV dubbed language, for both external elements like titles and captions as well as internal elements like syntactic structures and lexical calques. There is also a rise in its predictability, and thus this kind of translation supports the Italian tendency of using grammaticalized structures.

The effect, though, is not that of an unnatural language with a high rise in formality, which sometimes occurs in Spanish dubbese (e.g., in Friends), or that of a pseudo translation (Salmon), where the syntax and lexis are independent from the pragmatic. Instead, it seems that TV-dubbed Italian sounds very natural, partly because adaptors have become experts in avoiding classic interferences that were present in old serials. On the contrary, the presence of English is much more evident in the connotative aspects of the language, as it is linked to a sense of efficiency that renders Italian more permeable to a higher frequency of abbreviations, inscriptions, and especially calques, which deeply model contemporary Italian.

Daria Motta

Istituto Comprensivo "Dusmet-Doria", Catania


(1) In the website is possible to find some of the results of the research conducted by Accademia della Crusca and the Universities of Catania, Milano, Genova, Roma3, and Tuscia.

(2) On John Reith see at least Briggs 1961.

(3) In fact the law no. 103, approved on 14 April 1975, aiming at stopping Rai's monopoly, opened the market to private competitors.

(4) In this case I have transcribed two episodes to reach 50 minutes of broadcast text, comparable to the one of the other serials.

(5) After the * I indicate the 'traditional' Italian sentence.


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