Navigation – Plan du site
III. Traduire l'audiovisuel pour compenser le déficit sensoriel

Exploring the Sensory Dimension of Translated Films: An Analysis of The King’s Speech

Silvia Bruti et Serenella Zanotti
p. 154-177


Dans cet article, au moyen d’une analyse multimodale et d’une approche multidisciplinaire qui s’appuie sur les études cinématographiques, la linguistique et la stylistique, on étudie le potentiel de création de sens de la dimension sonore ‒ avec un accent particulier sur le bégaiement ‒ dans les dialogues de The King’s Speech (Hooper, 2010) et leur traduction dans les sous-titres pour sourds et malentendants. L’intrigue du film est fortement ancrée dans la représentation d’émotions intenses construites sur le bégaiement du protagoniste et ses difficiles tentatives de le surmonter. La traduction d’un tel réseau complexe d’émotions entremêlées devient particulièrement difficile si le même sens émotionnel doit être transmis à un public de personnes malentendantes, étant donné les perceptions différentes qu’a ce groupe de spectateurs et les limites du SME dans l’expression des subtilités des nuances de la voix. Nous comparons ainsi le message dans la VO avec les sous-titrages anglais et italien afin de déterminer comment ils contribuent à l’expression des émotions.

Haut de page

Notes de l’auteur

The research leading to this contribution was carried out by both authors. S. Bruti wrote the following sections: Introduction, The senses in film, The articulate music of language in The King’s Speech, Stuttering and voice on screen: a multimodal analysis, Word and sound repetition; S. Zanotti wrote The voice in film, The relevance of paralinguistic qualifiers in texts, Paralinguistic qualifiers in subtitles, Stuttering on screen, Representations of stuttering in the written mode, Representational strategies, Dramatic segmentation and punctuation, Labels.

Texte intégral

1Much of the recent cinematic output aims at winning the audience’s appreciation by creating a strong emotional impact, often through the involvement of the five senses.

2In what follows, by means of a multimodal analysis and a multidisciplinary approach that draws on film studies, linguistics and stylistics, we investigate the meaning-making potential of the aural dimension—with a special focus on stuttering—in the dialogues of The King’s Speech (Hooper, 2010) and their translation in the subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH). The plot of the film is heavily grounded in the representation of heightened emotions, which are built on the protagonist’s stutter and his arduous attempt at overcoming it. The translation of such an intricate web of emotions becomes particularly difficult if the same emotional meaning is to be conveyed to an audience of hearing impaired people, given the different perceptions this group of viewers have and the limitations of subtitling for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in expressing the subtle nuances of voice. We thus compare the message in the original with the English and Italian subtitles in order to determine how they contribute to the expression of emotions (Neves, 2005; McClarty, 2012) and to characterization (McIntyre & Lugea, 2015).

The sensory dimension in the film medium

3The following paragraphs explore the role of senses, and voice in particular, in films.

The senses in film

4As Plantinga points out, “films are sensual to their very core, in ways that are not widely acknowledged” (2009: 114). Films have been recognized to possess a quality that makes them powerful and successful, i.e. that of creating a visceral response in audiences by arousing emotions (Tan, 1994 & 1996). When watching a film, our brain behaves exactly as if we were living a scene that is merely images, a reaction that is attributed to the so-called “mirror neurons” (Plantinga, 2009). These cells are involved whenever we learn new movements, but they also spark off when we watch other people move. Zacks (2015), who has thoroughly studied the relation between emotions and the silver screen, explains that the intense physical responses people have are both normal and predictable, because the brain processes the stimuli in the movie as if they were stimuli in real life.

5On the more material end of the scale, film studies have also focused on senses, as they are the physiological capacities of an organism that provide data for perception. In Elsaesser and Hagener’s words:

[T]he idea of the body as sensory envelope, as perceptual membrane and material-mental interface, in relation to the cinematic image and to audio-visual perception, is thus more than a heuristic device and an aesthetic metaphor: it is the ontological, epistemological and phenomenological ‘ground’ for the respective theories of film and cinema today (2010: 11)

6Thanks to technological advances on the one hand and to the need for making narratives more and more engaging on the other, cinema is much invested in the senses and audiences are addressed in multisensory ways. As a consequence, the current debate in film theory is largely devoted to the relation between mind (or brain) and cinema, to embodied or disembodied perceptions, to synesthesia and intermodality, to name but a few, the focus now being on “the sensual nature of the medium and its automatic response processes” (Plantinga, 2009: 114).

7Both images and sounds take the lion’s share in cinema, although the visual component has been traditionally favoured in film studies (Altman, 1992b). Recent publications such as Garwood (2013) investigate how films engage the viewers’ senses, focusing on “the sensuous quality” of images and sound, which is seen as intimately connected to the storytelling process. Marks (2000: xvi) focuses instead on the representation of senses in intercultural cinema, but she does not prioritize the role of sound, important though it is. The author contends in fact that her intention is to specifically delve into the nature of the “unrepresentable” senses such as touch, smell and taste (see also Barker, 2009). Elsaesser and Hagener devote a whole chapter to the ear, “a central element of perception, knowledge, and experience” (2010: 148). They argue that a focus on the ear makes the cinematic experience more complete as it enters the spectator’s (and, they add, the listener’s) inner self thus acquiring a spatial dimension. A comparison of sound with image highlights that the former is fleeting and cannot be fixed, because it unrolls along a temporal dimension. Yet, sound can

carry meaning, enable communication, and create reference—notably as language—it can also destroy or distort meaning as noise and interference, or it can hover on the border between meaning and non-sense, threatening to fall into the meaninglessness of babbling or muttering. The boundaries between these different states are blurred, as a cry can become a scream, music might turn into noise, or whispered words can drown in background sound. Sound is therefore more malleable than the image, because it has always […] been endowed with the power of metamorphosis, for it can alter its form at all times. And finally, sound is profoundly polysemic when it comes to its emotional effect. (ibid.: 156)

The voice in film

8Film sound has been a subject of growing interest in the last decades (LeFèvre-Berthelot, 2013), which have also seen increasing critical recognition of the centrality of the voice (Schingler, 2006). In Audio-Vision, Chion introduces the notion of film as “primarily vococentric”, in that “it almost always privileges the voice, highlighting and setting the latter off from other sounds”(1994: 5-6). More precisely, since in sound recording the focus of attention is mainly directed at speech, the cinema is to be regarded as “a verbocentric phenomenon”, where voice is essentially a “medium of verbal expression” and prominence is given to the “effortless intelligibility of the words spoken”. However, as suggested by Schingler (2006: 3), “there is much more to the voice than dialogue”:

The dramatic human voice heard in film does not have to be eloquent or articulate. It may not even be used to articulate words at all. The sounds emitted from the human throat and mouth produce profound and powerful effects when recorded by modern sensitive microphones and reproduced in the sonic playground that is the modern movie theatre. (ibid.)

9Smith stresses, for example, “the capacity of the human voice to bring a quality of feeling and texture of meaning to the medium of film that may not be possible to convey through the visuals alone” (2007: 164), thus pointing to the sensorial and emotional contribution of voice in film. This is achieved through the materiality of the voice, which activates the corresponding cultural meaning by stimulating the senses. As van Leeuwen explains, “the voice and its meanings can only be understood on the basis of our bodily experience” (2009: 425-426).

10In The Voice in Cinema, Chion acknowledges “the work that especially American actors devote to vocal accents and timbres”, which “allows them to reassert their identity as actors, to show that they are not just blank canvases for makeup, but that they can reinvent and master their craft through technique, the body and voice” (1999: xi). The actors’ voice-work plays a key role in defining characters’ identity (Smith, 2007); “actors can use their natural voice to convey a character […] or they can manipulate the qualities of their voice” (Pederby, 2013: 208) to create a distinctive one. Vocal manipulation is therefore intentionally and regularly performed to achieve dramatic characterization.

11The management of verbal and non-verbal sound, the way it is orchestrated to achieve the image/sound fusion characteristic of the cinematic medium, contributes to the meaning of the film as a whole (Martin, 1999). We should never forget, however, that film is “always the product of performance” (Altman, 1992: 9). Vocal performance, and the way it combines with gestures and body movements, has the power to convey particular meanings (Klevan, 2005). More specifically, as Kozloff points out, the constitutive features of voice modulation, i.e. pace, intonation, and volume

ultimately combine as the means of conveying emotion. When performed, dialogue not only conveys semantic meaning but also the emotional state of the speaker, even the beat-by-beat fluctuation of his or her feelings. Actors are extremely skilled at conveying such nuances, and viewers are very proficient in recognizing these emotional states (2000: 95).

12Kozloff suggests elsewhere that “how film characters speak and exactly what they say is of vital importance to the movie-going experience” (1999: 127), thus highlighting the importance of the combined effect of “the writing and delivery of filmic speech” (Martin, 1999: 133). As will be shown later on in this article, the staging and manipulation of voice and sound are central to the meaning in The King’s Speech. This makes it interesting as a case study that investigates the strategies adopted for the representation of voice in SDH.

Translating voices: the sensory dimension of film in translated audiovisuals

The relevance of paralinguistic qualifiers in texts

13While verbal signifiers have been the focus of attention of audiovisual translation scholars for decades, the acoustic realization of language and the accompanying non-verbal behavior have been comparatively neglected (Pérez-González, 2014a: 199-200). This dimension needs to be taken into account in translation, since the viewers’ perception of what is said on screen will be affected by the sounds they hear and by the meanings and emotions expressed by the film actors’ facial and body movements. As Poyatos points out, “many nuances of meaning in the characters’ interactive exchanges depend in the source text on paralinguistics, kinesics and parakinesic qualifiers” (2008: 176) and on their mutual interdependence. In dealing with film dialogue, translation must hence inevitably “interact with the semiotics of the human body” (Pérez-González, 2014b: 122-123), including voice and its physical qualities. This applies to the translation of written and oral texts alike:

when translators translate the words spoken by the characters, as well as the author’s words that describe how those voices sound and what those speaking faces look like as they speak, they ought to bear in mind the acoustic similarities and differences between the words in the original text and those in their target language, for the more sensitive readers will utter them to themselves and therefore hear and see those faces. (Poyatos, 1997: 22)

14Due attention must thus be paid to the meaning conveyed by kinesic and paralinguistic features, especially in light of the key role these play in character identification and in consideration of intercultural differences (ibid.).

  • 2 . On paralinguistic elements in dubbing see also Chaume (1997 & 2012: 102-103).

15The problem of translating paralinguistic features such as voice quality has only recently been emphasized in reference to dubbing (Bosseaux, 2008 & 2015; Whittaker, 2012)2. In particular, the way dubbing affects “characters as constructed through language, voice and performance” has been investigated by Bosseaux (2008: 344), who calls attention to the interrelationship between the linguistic choices made by the dialogue adapter and the dubbing actor’s vocal performance and to their overall effect on filmic characterization. By examining “the styles and material textures of vocal performance and sound design”, Whittaker (2012: 203) shows “the dubbed voice is an important component of film form”. The translation of intonation and prosodic features in dubbing is another area that has only recently started to be explored in depth. Sánchez-Mompeán (2016), for instance, stresses “the pivotal role of prosody in the filmic diegesis” and the difficulty that translators encounter in dealing with the “semantic and emotional nuances transmitted through prosodic traits”. By stressing the importance of paralanguage as well as the role of dubbing actors’ voices and performance in the construction of meaning in translated audiovisual texts, these studies have indeed succeeded in shedding new light on “the contribution of voice to the semiotic fabric of films” (Pérez-González, 2014a: 200).

Paralinguistic qualifiers in subtitles

16Watching a subtitled film provides a different sensory experience to that of watching a dubbed film owing, among other things, to the addition of strings of written text that accompany the visuals in synchrony with the soundtrack. The capacity of the written medium to convey the nuances of meaning expressed through paralinguistic features associated with voice and paraverbal behaviour has been extensively and exhaustively investigated by Poyatos (1997: 21). He shows how creative writers exploit the semiotic potential of resources such as punctuation and typography to convey a sense of the human voice. As Poyatos points out, not only do writers often describe paralinguistic features verbally, but they “also try to visually transcribe and suggest some of those voice features when at all possible, by resorting to punctuation and even typographical means, […] yet most of the times supported by the added verbal description” (2008: 179). The interaction between verbal description and orthographic transcription is also a constitutive feature of screenplays, where various conventions for encoding verbal and para-verbal information are used in order to help film actors to translate vocally the written words and the emotions they aim to convey.

17The representation of prosodic features in subtitling is not considered an issue because hearing viewers have direct access to the original soundtrack (Díaz-Cintas & Remael, 2007: 18). Still it remains an area open to investigation (Irvin, 2008, Sánchez-Mompeán, 2016). One of the issues at stake is that viewers may not be aware of the cultural meanings expressed by some paralinguistic features (Poyatos, 1997). Moreover, unmediated access to the film’s soundscape, which constitutes an integral part of its aesthetic structure, may result in the viewer missing what is implied through sound. For instance, changes in volume are hardly ever accounted for in standard subtitling practices, hence viewers are not able to distinguish between audible and inaudible (or partially inaudible) dialogue, even when this difference deliberately aims at an aesthetic effect (Bréan, 2013: 28; Pérez-González, 2014a: 202-203). Studies conducted on emerging participatory practices have highlighted fansubbers’ successful attempts at elaborating alternative ways to exploit the semiotic potential of the written mode in ways that contrast sharply with dominant subtitling conventions (Pérez-González, 2013). On a similar note, in her analysis of films where subtitles produced by film director and editors innovatively “interact with the film’s soundscape and mise en scène”, McClarty (2012: 144) points to a creative turn in subtitling which may finally lead to a change in conventions concerning the rendering of paralinguistic features. As she proposes (2012, 2013), subtitles can convey a vast array of emotions thanks to the choice of different fonts, sizes, colours and opacity, or to their positioning in different parts of the screen.

  • 3 . We offer here a parallelism with audiodescription in that both audiodescription and SDH are des (...)

18The aural dimension of films, as expressed in the variation of quality features such as timbre, resonance, loudness, tempo, pitch, intonation range, syllabic duration, and rhythm (Poyatos, 1993)—all of which carry individual, emotional and cultural meanings—is out of deaf people’s reach. Sound and paralinguistic elements are thus given particular attention in SDH. We have already explored the role of sound and speech acoustics in construing emotions in film, and how this dimension is of crucial importance in drawing viewers into the cinematic experience (Plantinga, 2009). Conveying vocally expressed emotions in subtitles becomes particularly difficult if the same emotional meaning is to be conveyed to an audience of hearing impaired people, given the different perceptions this group of viewers has and the limitations of SDH in expressing the subtle nuances of voice. The difficulty of conveying visually expressed emotion (Feng & O’Halloran, 2012), such as the emotion seen in the facial expressions and in the body movements of the actors on screen, has been variously addressed in studies on audiodescription (Ramos & Rojo, 2014; Ramos, 2015)3.

19The vocal perception of emotion is not problematic for people with visual impairment, since “listeners are seemingly adept at making accurate evaluations of emotional states—even in the absence of visual cues” (Bachorowski, 1999: 53). Conversely, this represents a huge obstacle for viewers with hearing impairment (Neves, 2007). Studies on SDH have variously addressed the difficulty of dealing with vocally expressed emotion, i.e. emotion as conveyed through voice and sound. As Neves notes, the explicitation of paralinguistic information is a fundamental process in SDH, “but expressing those messages that are conveyed through the tone of voice (irony, sadness, irritation, happiness, etc.), can be difficult” (2005: 149). First of all, “because the associative dimension of language is always the most subjective to perceive and to interpret” (ibid.: 222); secondly, because “adding extra information might alter the intended pace of the narrative or cut down on the tension” (ibid.: 149). In SDH paralinguistic information is conveyed through labels or expressive punctuation, both of which are used to encode prosodic features and to convey emotional states.

20As we shall see in the next section, the importance that sound and paraverbal elements have in The King’s Speech has been noted by the film’s critics. As Kaplan points out, “The shuddering gasps of the dying king, the defiant exhalations of the petulant royal heir, the hapless fumbling with the non-flaming Zippo lighter of the Duke provide a non-verbal script that almost renders dialogue unnecessary” (2011: 368). The translational implications that this dimension of the film has for SDH will be accounted for in the last section of our paper.

The articulate music of language in The King’s Speech

21In this paragraph the aural dimension is explored in its two main aspects, sound on the one hand, and voice and speech on the other.

Sound in The King’s Speech

22The King’s Speech is a film that privileges the exploration of sound in its complex and evocative interplay with voice (Kibbey, 2013: 473), “the intimate kernel of subjectivity” (Dolar, 2006: 14). The acoustic dimension, here promoted to the most important semiotic code, encompasses “the laceration of the normal sounds of speech, and the painful silences of words that won’t come out” (Kibbey, 2013: 473) as well as noises, classical music, and new sound technologies such as the radio and the gramophone.

  • 4 . Edward VIII is the regnal name taken by Prince David, i.e. King George V’s eldest son and Berti (...)

23The historical “A” plot in the film, the one devoted to Edward VIII’s4 abdication to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson, which belongs to the increasingly popular genre of biopics (Pennacchia, 2016), is paralleled by a secondary yet crucial story of personal growth, in which Prince Albert (played by Colin Firth), who later becomes King George VI, overcomes his speech impediment and acquires a powerful voice that reaches people in their homes through the influential means of the radio. As shall be seen, the personal and institutional voices, somehow conflicting at the beginning, gradually converge and overlap in the final speech broadcast over the radio, which was becoming a privileged political instrument for communicating successfully and creating national and international consensus (Logaldo, 2015: 314).

Voice and speech in The King’s Speech

24At the beginning of the film, Prince Albert, Bertie to his family, is shown in his infelicitous attempt at delivering a public speech at Wembley, on the occasion of the British Empire exhibition. The microphone and the immensity of the stadium amplify the effect of his stuttering, a speech impediment that becomes so severe that Bertie is unable to keep it under control and repeatedly stumbles on words and ends up engulfed by an appalling “audible silence” (Kibbey, 2013: 480).

25Bertie’s voice, with the loving tones in his domestic environment and the anguished struggle to articulate in public, is the emblem of his character and his battle. As Dolar effectively argues, “words fail us when we are faced with the infinite shades of the voice, which infinitely exceed meaning. […] We are social beings by the voice and through the voice; it seems that the voice stands at the axis of our social bonds” (2006: 13; 14). In Bertie this is all the more true, his voice being “a fingerprint, instantly recognizable and identifiable. […] It cannot be linguistically described, for its features are […] slight variations which do not violate the norm—rather […] the slight trespassing which is the mark of individuality” (ibid.: 22). Alternating between inconsequential hesitations and severe blocks, his stuttering is a defining feature of his voice, along with accent, intonation and timbre. Similarly to involuntary phenomena such as coughing and hiccups that occur “without the intention of the utterer and against his or her will, [it] represent[s] a break in speech, a disruption of the ascent to word meaning” (ibid.: 24). Yet, although in linguistic terms these elements are considered inarticulate, they are nonetheless expressive, as they indicate shades of meaning beyond words, or “beyond the discernible meaning” (ibid.: 32).

26In Bertie’s speech at Wembley, music accompanies his struggle and agony, with an arrangement of piano and strings meant to convey his distress. Not only here, but also during his therapeutic journey and in the redeeming epilogue, is music significant, a kind of reflection of the protagonist’s voice. As Desplat, the author of the film score, explains, “This is a film about the sound of the voice. Music has to deal with that. Music has to deal with silence. Music has to deal with time” (Martens, 2010). When Bertie befriends Logue, who has become his speech therapist, and gradually begins to overcome his inner blocks, the music grows warmer, until it reaches a climax in the coronation scene, which contains the second movement (Allegretto) of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. At the end of a path, when he becomes king, Bertie has finally found his voice, one that is true to his nature and suitable for a monarch. The choice of adding this famous piece was the music editor’s, Tariq Anwar, and it creates a “counterpoint of words and music [that represents] a unified experience of harmony between voice and music” (Kibbey, 2013: 479). As Kibbey points out, this grand classical piece adds a public dimension to the king’s speech, which is recorded in the confined space of a sound studio, but is meant to reach his subjects in the remotest regions of the Commonwealth (ibid.: 485).

27The film opens and closes with public speeches broadcast over the radio. The very first shots in the film focus on a BBC microphone of the 1920s to emphasize the role of this medium, so pivotal as to be defined as “the third protagonist in the story” (Pennacchia, 2016: 43). At the time the radio had already become part of the furnishings of almost every family and was to be extensively employed during World War II. Both the private and the public implications of the use of the radio are explored in the film: on the one hand an allusion is made to families sitting together to listen to their sovereign’s Christmas address (Logaldo, 2015: 315), on the other the radio spreads the unifying voice of the monarch (the king speaks British English, but was “enabled” to speak by his Australian subject Logue), the authority that meshes together a plurality of voices through his broadcast speeches.

28The auditory dimension is always foregrounded in the film, not only because of Bertie’s journey to gain self-confidence and the ability to speak as the king, but also in a series of interrelated historical details disseminated in the plot referring to the importance of new technical devices to communicate through sound waves. These include the radio and the birth of the BBC, the use of microphones, and also the equipment that Logue uses in his training with Bertie. Although Logue does not have a medical degree, he exploits his experience as an elocution coach in the theatre and with shell-shocked soldiers after World War I. Through a variety of techniques and much hard work, he helps Bertie gain self-confidence and make his impediment a minor problem.

29During one of the first elocution sessions, the unconventional speech therapist asks him to read Hamlet’s famous soliloquy while listening to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro through his headphones and recording his voice on a Silvertone disc (Kibbey, 2013: 478; Pennacchia, 2016: 45). These “repetitions and comparisons are where the principle of parallelism becomes the creative concrete that binds [the] audience into [the] storytelling” (Hoxter, 2015: 65).

Stuttering on screen

30Stuttering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is interrupted by repetitions, prolongations of phonemes, or abnormal blocks of sounds and syllables (Lavid, 2003; Ward, 2006). People who have a severe stutter usually show signs of physical struggle when attempting to speak (Conture, 2001). Physical concomitants include eye blinking and squeezing, as well as physical tension in the facial muscles (Guitar, 2013). Stutter may manifest itself as a sudden paralysis of the voice, a speech block that results in complete silence.

31In filmic representations, stuttering is constructed as “uncontrolled, ineffective speech, broken and disjointed dialogue” (Pederby, 2013: 206), often serving as shorthand to communicate “humor, nervousness, weakness” (Johnson, 2008: 245). Smith calls attention to “the additional creative possibilities and effects that may arise in those cases where the male’s struggle to speak manifests itself in the form of some quite literal impairment to his voice” (2007: 198). In fact, stuttering has been traditionally used in film to portray mostly male, “unheroic/villainous characters” (Johnson, 2008: 245). As already seen, this stereotypical portrayal has been radically subverted in The King’s Speech (Johnson, 2012), which is not only “one of the first films to portray a person who stutters in a sympathetic and heroic light” (Ghiselli & Davis, 2011), but one where the representation of stuttering comes across as authentic and sincere (Lehrer, 2011).

Exploring the power of the written medium: The translation of voice in subtitling

32In what follows, starting from an investigation into the various strategies to represent stuttering through the written medium and a multimodal analysis of some crucial scenes, we compare and contrast the solutions employed in the English and Italian SDH of the two editions of the film.

Representations of stuttering in the written mode

33As already seen, there is a tradition of representing paralinguistic features on page (Poyatos, 1997). However, as Poyatos (2008: 182) points out, while our writing systems do not allow for any direct representation of the different types of voice, some primary qualities such as voice intensity, interrogative intonation, elision, drawling and syllabic repetition as in stuttering can be represented by means of punctuation or typographical devices. In the area of audiovisual translation, various experiments have been carried out to investigate the potential of typography and typeface as a means to capture prosodic features in subtitling (Irvin, 2008) or the effectiveness of emoticons in conveying paralinguistic or emotional features (Neves, 2005; Civera & Orero, 2010). As Shell (2005: 45) notes,

there are […] many different ways to indicate on the page that a particular speaker is stuttering or to render the particular stutter. Sometimes the difference among methods results in confusion about how a certain person stutters or even whether he or she stutters. (2005: 45)

34This may become even more complicated in translation, since each culture develops its own strategies of representation (Poyatos, 1997). Looking at the available literature, there seem to be regularities in the way stuttering is recreated on the page in Anglophone cultures. These include:

  • letter or syllable repetition (e.g. “fafafather, shsh shake” [Joyce, 1939: 36]),

  • repeated letter or syllable separated by hyphens (e.g. “P-P-Potter”, stammered Professor Quirrell, grasping Harry’s hand, “c-can’t tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you” [Rowling, 1997: 55]),

  • em dashes ( — ) (e.g. “I—I—well, I don’t know” [Roberts Powers, 2005: 48)]

  • prolonged sounds (e.g. “Ssssssssssilver is a pretty color” [Tetnowski & Scaler Scott, 2012]),

  • suspension dots for tense pauses (e.g. “…I’m done” [ibid.]).

35These conventions are partly reflected in the existing guidelines for subtitling in the UK context. The ITC (Independent Television Commission) guidelines do not mention stuttering nor dysfluencies, but recommend the “‘overlay’ technique” to mark dramatic pauses. This “dynamic method of simulating speech timing and phrasing” consists in using subtitle segmentation to “express emphasis and phrasing”, thus amplifying the effect of pauses (ITC, 1999: 13). The BBC guidelines provide several different cases of dysfluency and specific mention of stammering, to be encoded by means of hyphens between repeated sounds (Ford Williams, 2009: 26):

If a speaker stammers, give some indication (but not too much) by using hyphens between repeated sounds. This is more likely to be needed in drama than factual content. Letters to show a stammer should follow the case of the first letter of the word:

e.g.   I’m g-g-going home
      W-W-What are you doing?

36Elsewhere the guidelines pay due attention to hesitation and recommend to “not edit out the ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ if they are important for characterisation or plot” (ibid.: 25). The expressive function of punctuation is particularly emphasized in reference to hesitation: “dots are only used to indicate a pause or an unfinished sentence” (ibid.: 26, emphasis in the original).

37According to Díaz Cintas & Remael, triple dots are used in (interlinguistic) subtitling “when it is felt absolutely necessary to emphasize a stutter in the diction of some character” (2007: 115), together with the reduplication of a letter.

Subtitling strategies in the UK and in the Italian DVD editions of The King’s Speech

Stuttering and voice on screen: a multimodal analysis

  • 5 . The types of shots follow Lacey’s description (2005: 23). They have been abbreviated as follows (...)

38In this section we offer a multimodal analysis of the film’s opening scene. This plays a fundamental role in the film since it introduces the viewer to the protagonist’s disability, “establishes the importance of speeches in the royal role and demonstrates the agony experienced by Bertie when he’s forced to give a speech” (Beker, 2013: 121). We have carried out a complete multimodal transcription5 of the first four minutes of the film, but, for reasons of space, we reproduce here only the final part, starting from shot 46.

39As the card in the opening shot says, the King has asked his younger son, the Duke of York, to give the closing speech at the Empire Exhibition in Wembley. The shots that follow present all the broadcasting paraphernalia, the newly invented wireless technology that allows the monarch to reach all his subjects in their homes in different parts of the world. While the flawless BBC newsreader performs his routine preparation before impeccably reading his announcement (Michel Fariña, 2011: 2), the Duke of York is anxiously waiting for his turn with his wife. After the patronizing reassurance of the Archbishop, the Duke is led to the podium at the top of the stairs, where the microphone is menacingly waiting for him. His wife’s loving presence cannot temper the tension he feels at the thought of addressing a huge crowd in the stadium and an even larger audience at home in his father’s name.

40The quick montage, which alternates intense close ups of the Duke’s face with wider shots picturing the setting, and the eloquent meshing of silence and music and different camera movements create a crescendo of tension until the climax, which is represented by the Duke’s agonizing performance. This is the first time we hear his voice, which soon lapses into inarticulate sound, contrasted with the newsreader’s diction and the horses’ neighing. The first counterpoint is the perfect example of how a voice can be controlled, rehearsed, moulded to the needs of communication; the second, on the contrary, is the uncontrolled but natural voice of nature (ibid.: 2-3). Despite the centrality of acoustics, however, this traumatic realization is obtained through the joint effect of all the semiotic codes among which is also the eloquence of silence.

Table 1. Multimodal transcription of the opening scene

Shot description

Kinesics ans proxemics

Audio track


Spoken language


CU of the microphone, in the foreground, slightly out of focus, with the crowd in the background

The red light next to the microphone begins to flash

Music stops


CU of the Duke

He raises his eyes, moves his lips but is unable to speak

Neighing of horses


EXT LONG S of the stadium with the army lined up


CU of the Duke

He looks down at the papers


MED CU of the speaker


MED LONG S of a technician in the broadcasting headquarters

The technician fidgets with a knob then adjusts his headphones

Silence is amplified by the microphone

Music begins


LONG S of people

They turn to the Duke, still in front of the microphone


CU of the Duke

He opens his lips. Then raises his eyes

The Duke’s voice reverberates in the stadium

I have received


MED CU of the Duke from behind


CU of the Duke

He looks down


MED CU of the Duke Seen in the face, behind the microphone

From his… Majesty the…


CU of the Duke on the left of the screen

He lowers his eyes



MED CU of the Duchess

She looks tense and worried. Her lips tremble


CU of the Duke

He turns to his left, then raises his eyes


EXT LONG S of the stadium seen beyond the microphone in the foreground, through the Duke’s viewpoint

The sound reverberates



MED CU of the Duke

He lowers his head and closes his eyes. Then swallows

The… the King


CU of the Duke

He struggles and swallows again


MED CU of a young man in the crowd. The red light is in the foreground


MED CU of a woman and man in the crowd


MED CU of a row of men in the crowd

They look puzzled


MED CU of the Archbishop

He looks perplexed.

He lowers his eyes for a while



CU of the Duke

He struggles to enunciate

The… the


MED CU of the Duchess

The Duchess’s eyes are filled with tears, she lowers her head

41Bertie’s silence is not an utter silence but a series of frustrated attempts at talk, which can be heard through strangled, aborted phonemes. This perception, difficult though it may be, should be somehow conveyed to an audience of non-hearing people.

42In what follows, we shall examine the strategies adopted for representing the complex staging of stuttering in The King’s Speech in the SDH subtitles available in the UK and in the Italian DVD edition.

Representational strategies6

  • 6 . Transcription conventions: … Three dots indicate a long pause; -- Double dashes a tense pause ( (...)

43In reference to the opening scene, the table below shows that both versions exploit the semiotic potential of the written medium to create dramatic tension, although the strategies adopted locally are quite different.

  • 7 . The sign appears in the Italian SDH, where it is used conventionally to indicate off-camera voi (...)

Example 17

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH

I have received...
from his –Majesty
the K-… the K-…
the K-… the K-…
the King, the…
((struggles to speak)) the… the… the…

(Echoing loudly) I have received…

Ho ricevuto…

from His…Majesty the…

de Sua Maestà… il…              





…the King…


(Stammering echo)



…il re…








44The echo amplifying the Duke’s stammer is indicated by means of labels in the English SDH subtitles, while in the Italian edition the echoic effect of his voice on the microphone is created orthographically by the amplified iteration of the word il / “the” encapsulated by three dots. This represents a significant point of divergence between the two sets of SDH subtitles: the UK version provides viewers with the relevant information from the very beginning of the film, although the subtitles only make indirect reference to the Duke’s speech impediment using the label (Stammering echo), whereas no indication is found in the Italian subtitles for this scene.

45Only in the second scene is the Duke’s speech labelled as stuttering [balbettando] in the Italian version. Bertie is about to give up hope of a cure after seeing a speech therapist, who obliges him to articulate words with marbles in his mouth. The Duke risks choking and leaves in a rage. He discusses this with his wife Elizabeth, complaining about the marbles. He is quite infuriated and stuttering appears.

Example 2

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH

Insert [m-mα:blz]. He can [I-Insɜ:t] his own bloody marbles!

Windsor…marbles. He can insert
his own bloody marbles!

<(balbettando) Inserire biglie.

Se le può inserire lui le sue dannate biglie !

  • 8 . It should be noticed that the original “insert marbles” quite strangely becomes “Windsor marble (...)

46Different strategies of character revelation are evidently at work here. The Italian SDH version seems to rely more on the power of the visuals in the opening scene, hence the strategy chosen is to postpone important diegetic information such as the Duke’s speech impediment to the second scene, where it is clearly marked as stuttering by the corresponding label. The strategy adopted in the English SDH, instead, is to use suspension dots before the word that causes the stutter, thus marking this stuttering moment as a speech block8. As shall be seen, different encoding strategies are seen at work in the two versions, which may have an impact on characterization as well as on the reception of characterization by viewers.

  • 9 . On the preferences of British Deaf and Hard of Hearing viewers concerning sound information see (...)

47Although there is close similarity between the conventions used in the two sets of subtitles, yet different local choices are made that invite comparison. In our analysis we distinguish between global and local strategies. By global strategies we mean choices relating to the ways in which stuttering is encoded in the subtitles, either by means of typographic devices (transcription) or by means of descriptive labels (description). Typographic devices include expressive punctuation (suspension dots), word and syllable repetition, and dramatic segmentation (“rhetorical segmentation” in Díaz-Cintas & Remael, 2007: 179). The strategy of description involves using labels containing specific indications such as [Stuttering]9. By local strategies we mean the various ways in which these resources are employed in the two versions (their relative frequency, the preference for one or the other, etc.), thus accounting for the differences in the way stuttering is constructed in the two sets of subtitles.

Word and sound repetition

48Generally speaking, consonants are the most difficult phonemes to articulate for stutterers. Stops (notably /p/) and fricatives (/ʃ/) seem to be especially difficult for Bertie. The English SDH provide a stylized typographic representation of stuttering. One of the most frequently adopted strategies entails using repeated consonants separated by dashes to represent the stuttered form.

Example 3

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH

Penguins have wings which [ɑ] -- [ɑ:]
shaped like herrings. […] And from there he
took the 2:30 to Weybridge, changed at Clapham Junction,
asked a p- a p- a [p-pɑsɪƞ] mallard the way to Buckingham Palace. […] Now, when the [g- gɜ:lz] heard all the commotion […]

Penguins have wings

which are…
shaped like

I pinguini hanno le ali

che sono…
a forma di aringa.

And from there,

he took the 2:30 to Weybridge,

E da lì prese il treno

delle due e trenta per Weybridge,

changed at Clapham Junction,
asked a

cambiò a Clapham Junction,

a passing mallard the way
to Buckingham Palace,

Now, when the g-girls

heard all the commotion,                    

chiese a un p- -
… a un piccione di

la strada per Buckingham
Quando le bambine
udirono tutto quel baccano                    

49In example 3, the Duke is portrayed at home, with his wife and daughters. The girls are about to go to sleep and Margaret asks her father to tell them a story about a penguin. He makes up a story about two princesses whose father was turned into a penguin by a wicked witch. Although the atmosphere is affectionate and relaxed, the Duke’s dysfluency reappears, but it does not prevent him from communicating effectively and entertaining his daughters. His uncertainty is shown in his difficulty in articulating beginning sounds, some hesitations, the typical problem with /p/ and another with the sound /g/. Representation seems to blend a series of different strategies, preferring hesitation with suspension dots and sound or word repetition (e.g. a p… a passing, or are… are); this is dealt with differently in the Italian SDH, which emphasize the impairment: at the beginning of this scene the audience’s reception is oriented with the label VERSI (see below), and then Bertie’s admitted difficulty with voiceless bilabial stop /p/ in the word “piccione” (‘mallard’ in English, which is a kind of duck) is encoded with a very marked solution, the grapheme <p> followed by two hyphens (p--). Instead of insisting on a severe block located in just one turn, in the English SDH Bertie’s speech is encoded as overall more fluent, but interspersed with more minor accidents: the word “girls” in the final turn is also a hurdle, a fact which is ignored in the Italian subtitles because representation of stuttering has already been particularly loaded.

Example 4

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH

LIONEL: Defecation flows trippingly from the tongue!

Defecation flows trippingly

from the tongue.

La defecazione scorre

speditamente dalla lingua.

BERTIE: Because I’m angry!

LIONEL: Do you know the f-word?

- Because I’m angry!

- Do you know the f-word?

Perché sono arrabbiato!

La parola con la “F”?




- F-fornication?

- Oh Bertie!                      


-Oh, Bertie!                             

LIONEL: Oh, Bertie.

50This example displays two different phenomena, e.g. repetition of the same sound in association with words whose semantic potential creates a speech block that makes it difficult for Bertie to pronounce them. Logue gets Bertie to completely release his tension by uttering taboo words. At a certain point, to provoke him further, he asks him to pronounce the “f word”. Innately reserved and used to repressing his inner feelings, Bertie answers “fornication”, triggering Logue’s ironic smirk.

51In this case, sound and meaning are jointly responsible for the hesitation in enunciating the intended word, which Bertie tries however to avoid. When further pushed to react, he gives in and repeats the word “fuck” several times. The stuttering is represented only in the English SDH, a fact that diminishes the Duke’s characterization in the other subtitles: he is in fact a man who respects the behavioural codes he has been taught, but who is capable of passionate feelings and strong reactions.

52In the film, there are other scenes where Bertie finds it difficult to pronounce words that are not expletives but represent challenging emotive hurdles for him in that they are connected with open wounds and unresolved conflicts dating back to his youth. Some of these emotionally loaded words, with which his speech defect becomes more evident, are I, king, brother, epilepsy.

Dramatic segmentation and punctuation

53Dramatic segmentation and punctuation play a key role in the representation of stuttering in the SDH subtitles. These two strategies are used to manipulate the flow of speech so as to recreate in writing the aural effect of stuttering in the soundtrack, particularly when it manifests itself as an impossibility to articulate fluently. Bertie’s impediment is artfully constructed in the film as words that do not come out: in Colin Firth’s performance, it is more frequently realized as a series of audible speech blocks than through any other vocal manifestation, as in the example below.

Example 5

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH


I’m not here to rehearse --Doctor Logue. Call me Lionel. True you--never
--called yourself
‘Doctor’. I did that--for
you. No training, no -- diploma, no ((struggles to articulate)) qualifications. Just [
ə] --a great deal of nerve.

I’m not here to rehearse

…Dr Logue.                 

“Call me Lionel”.

It’s true, you…

called yourself Doctor.                     

I did thaT…for you.

No training.


…qualifications. Just…

a great deal of nerve.   

Non sono qui per fare le prove,                 

dottor Logue.                

“Chiamatemi Lionel”.

voi… non vi siete

mai definito dottore,

l’ho fatto
io… per voi.

Né tirocinio, né diploma, né

…qualifica, solo… solo…

una gran faccia tosta.                         

54During preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, Bertie/George VI learns that Logue has no formal qualifications, as he had initially assumed. Logue explains that he assisted Australian soldiers returning from World War I, but the king is annoyed by Logue’s seeming disrespect and then dismisses his speech therapist. In this scene, Bertie’s struggling with words is once again in the foreground. We see that he goes to great pains to articulate his ideas—the difference here lies in the fact that his speech impediment does not manifest itself as uncontrolled word-initial sound repetition. Here he is completely blocked by emotions, almost unable to speak. Segmentation plays a key role in increasing tension, as items that usually belong together such as determiner and noun, adjective and noun, are separated thus creating unnatural, fragmented chunking (e.g. no…/…qualifications, you…/ never…called). In this atmosphere of tension and heightened emotion, the fragmentation of the subtitles becomes very significant. The layout of the subtitles thus makes an important contribution to creating a dramatic effect. It must be noted, however, that the English subtitles provide a much more fragmented version of the Duke’s speech compared to the Italian ones. While the UK version attempts to reproduce the rhythm, tempo and pacing of his speech and to recreate the disruptive and dramatic effect of Bertie’s struggle with silence, the Italian version seems to be less sensitive to prosodic features and the subtitles appear longer and more loaded with words.


55The analysis conducted so far has shown that not only are there differences in in-house styles, but also that the Italian translators worked independently of their colleagues in the UK. Figures reveal that the Italian SDH version contains twice as many explanatory labels asthe UK version. Labels seem to be the preferred means through which the encoding of stuttering is carried out in the Italian version, as opposed to the SDH subtitles in the UK version, which show a preference for typographical representation, expressive punctuation, and dramatic segmentation.

Table 2. Labels in the UK and in the Italian version

English SDH

Italian SDH

Labels encoding stuttering


(stammering echo, struggles to speak)


(balbettando, verso/i)

56It must be noted that, in the subtitles for the UK version, labels are seldom and very selectively used. When it comes to stuttering, labels are less conventional and more fine-tailored to the film than in the Italian version, as illustrated by the example below.

Example 6

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH

My brother…

My brother.

Mio fratello…

What about him?

What about him?

Che cosa ha fatto?

BERTIE ((struggles to speak)):

(struggles to speak)

Try singing it.

Try singing it.

<Provate a contarlo.

57The Duke meets Logue after his father’s death. He begins to talk about personal matters, but he finds it difficult to talk about his family, especially his father and his brother David, the future king Edward VIII. Lionel suggests singing to release tension and to proceed smoothly. This is one of the only two instances of an explicit label (Struggles to speak) being used to refer to stuttering in the English SDH version.

58Conversely, labels encoding stuttering are much more frequently used in the Italian SDH subtitles, hence information is conveyed in a more explicit and conventional way, the two preferred labels being balbettando (stuttering) and verso/versi (i.e. inarticulate sound).

Example 7

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH

Johnny. [s-swi:t] boy. Had ((struggles to
articulate)) epilepsy. And [hi:z- hi:z] --
different. He died at [
θ-θɜtiːn] hidden from view. [aɪ- aɪm] told it’s not -- catching.


Sweet boy.


… epilepsy

he…he was…

… different

He died
at… 13.

Hidden from view.


I’m told it’s not …catching.


Un dolce ragazzo.




E lui
era… diverso.

È morto a tredici anni.

Celato a tutti.

han - - mi han detto
che non è contagioso.

59In this exchange with Logue, Bertie talks about his younger brother Johnnie, who suffered from epilepsy and died prematurely. Talking about him brings back memories and the pain of his loss. Several words represent an obstacle in the flow of speech, the most difficult one being epilepsy. In the Italian version the word is introduced by the label (verso/versi), which does not succeed in conveying the idea of the speaker’s struggle with words. In addition, it triggers negative associations which may sound offensive to people affected by this speech impediment.

60Similar to the previous example, the one below shows how labels are used to depict the speech of a stutterer, in this case not the main protagonist of the film.

Example 8

Original dialogue

English SDH

Italian SDH


You can go in now, Mr. Johnson. Lionel says
wait here if you wish,
Mrs Johnson. Or it
being a [p:::- plɛzənt] day, [p:::-pəhæps] take
a stroll. Was that [
ɔ:l-ɔ:lraɪt] Lionel?

You can go in now, Mr.

Lionel says “Wait here if you wish, Mrs Johnson”.

Or, it being

…p-pleasant day…


take a stroll?

Was that all right, Lionel?                   

Potete entrare ora, signor

Lionel dice di aspettare, se volete, signora Johnson.

<O essendo una…

(balbettando)… bella giornata…


…fare una passeggiata.           

61The character in this scene is Willy, a young boy that the Duke meets at Logue’s, where he is to cure his speech defect. Willy welcomes Bertie and his wife on Logue’s behalf. The different kinds of subtitles employ all strategies—from suspension dots to consonant repetition (as in the English subtitles). The Italian SDH version resorts to an explicit label (balbettando), which occurs eight times throughout the film. The function of this label is to orient the interpretation of the speech that follows as it normally appears towards the beginning of a new scene.

62As Neves explains, “[s]ound, in all its forms, has the power to suggest worlds of its own, and to carry emotion” (2007: 95). The table below shows the occurrences of labels encoding emotions conveyed through music in the English and in the Italian SDH versions. The label [musica] in the Italian subtitles is always accompanied by a revealing adjective, e.g. triste, drammatica, malinconica, cupa, soave

Table 3

English SDH

Italian SDH

Labels encoding emotions conveyed through music



(musica dolce, soave, triste,

drammatica, malinconica,

cupa, di tensione)                                                  

63The example below offers an illustration of the different approaches to music in the two sets of subtitles.

64After his brother’s abdication, Bertie stands uneasily in the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet. He is going to address the Accession Council and take his oath as king. He battles with his emotions and all the old symptoms reappear. He knows it is going to be a terrible performance. The combination of music and images conveys a sense of fear and of imminent failure. Interestingly, in the UK edition no information regarding the music and the emotions it conveys is provided to the non-hearing, who are thus compelled to rely solely on the visuals.

65From our scrutiny of a film where stuttering is pivotal to the narrative in many ways, it has emerged that voice can be quite a powerful instrument to convey a vast array of emotions. In The King’s Speech, a joint effort on the part of the various professionals (screenwriter, director, leading actor, consultants) resulted in the creation of an “innovative” stuttering voice, one that is believable and does not turn the character into a stereotype or a person who is ridiculed.

66Transposing a film into subtitles destined for an audience with a hearing impairment is always a compromise effort, all the more so in a film where the aural dimension is central. Choices in the SDH for this film, in line with indications in the available guidelines for subtitling, point to differences in in-house styles, translator’s individual local choices and, possibly, different cultural habits. Following Poyatos (1997), we may conclude that, at least in the case at hand, there seems to be a preference for the strategy of transcription in the UK SDH version and for the strategy of description in the Italian version. It is not possible to establish what effects the different styles achieve, the emotional response they trigger, the impact they have on audiences’ perception of the main character, or how they affect viewers’ perception of people who stutter. A reception study would be needed to understand all this.

67What our study seems to suggest is that the different encoding conventions adopted in the two versions may affect characterization (MacIntyre & Lugea, 2015). As Dumas (2011) points out, “transcription choices reproduce and alter pathological language ideologies”, hence the adoption of certain representational strategies in subtitling is not neutral. One of the risks is to fall into stereotypical representations that may result in giving offense to people who stutter or may induce a negative perception of the character on the part of deaf or hard of hearing viewers.

68Stylization, as Guillot has shown in her research, is inherent to subtitling, where a few cues are enough to evoke speech phenomena. Hence, a selection of conventional traits to encode paralinguistic features could be enough to reproduce stuttering on the page, “to recognise the oral in the written” (2012: 483). In this regard, the subtitlers’ creativity in using the conventions at their disposal can be the key to subtitling the vast array of emotional nuances that are sometimes encoded in the acoustic dimension. Innovative representational models are offered by creative subtitling as found in both experimental filmography and fansubbing. As suggested by McClarty, “subtitles should respond to the emotion of the moment (implying that they may change throughout the film, depending on events, characters and settings). Engaging with the emotion of the moment in subtitles can take both linguistic and graphic forms” (2012: 145).

69To conclude, our analysis of the DVD editions available on the British and the Italian markets for this film seems to confirm the specificity of SDH (Neves, 2007 & 2008) with the aim of offering its audience a comparable viewing experience to the one a hearing audience has. As other studies have shown (Bruti & Zanotti, forthcoming), the representation of stuttering in subtitling has often been overlooked or has resulted in negative stereotyping. In The King’s Speech, the creation of a new positive, heroic figure of the stutterer is due to the greater attention that has been paid by professionals to the choice of ad hoc strategies which exploit the potential of the written mode to provide a non-stereotypical representation of stuttering onscreen.

Haut de page


Filmography: corpus

Hooper, Tom, 2010, The King’s Speech, Momentum Pictures, See-Saw Films, The Weinstein Company, UK Film Council, Momentum Pictures, 2 h 58.

Hooper, Tom, 2011, Il discorso del re, Milano, Eagle Pictures.

Works cited

Altman, Rick (ed.), 1992, Sound Theory, Sound Practice, New York, London, Routledge.

Bachorowski, Jo Anne, 1999, “Vocal expression and perception of emotion”, Current Directions in Psychological Science 8, New York/Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 53-57.

Barker, Jennifer, 2009, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Beker, Marilyn, 2013, The Screenwriter Activist: Writing Social Issue Movies, Abingdon, Routledge.

Bosseaux, Charlotte, 2008, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Characterization in the musical episode of the TV series”, the Translator 14 (2), Manchester, St. Jerome, p. 343-72.

, 2015, Dubbing, Film and Performance: Uncanny encounters, Oxford, Peter Lang.

Bréan, Samuel, 2013, “Le sous-titre révélateur: inaudibilité et traduction audiovisuelle (2e partie)”, L’Écran traduit 2, p. 28-41,

Bruti, Silvia & Zanotti, Serenella, forthc. 2018, “Representation of stuttering in subtitling. A corpus investigation”, in I. Ranzato & S. Zanotti (eds.), Linguistic and Cultural Representation in Audiovisual Translation, London, Routledge.

Chaume, Frederic, 1997, “Translating non-verbal information in dubbing”, in F. Poyatos (ed.), Nonverbal Communication and Translation: New perspectives and Challenges in Literature, Interpretation and the Media, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, p. 315-326.

, 2012, Dubbing, Manchester, St. Jerome.

Chion, Michel, 1994 [1991], Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, trans. C. Gorbman, New York, Columbia University Press.

, 1999 [1984], The Voice in Cinema, trans. C. Gorbman, New York, Columbia University Press.

Civera, Clara & Orero, Pilar, 2010, “Introducing icons in subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing: Optimising reception?”, in A. Matamala & P. Orero (eds.), Listening to Subtitles: Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Bern, Peter Lang, p. 149-162.

Conture, Edward, 2001, Stuttering: Its Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment, Boston, Allyn & Bacon.

Díaz Cintas, Jorge & Remael, Aline, 2007, Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling, Manchester, St. Jerome.

Dolar, Mladen, 2006, A Voice and Nothing More, Cambridge, MIT.

Dumas, Nathaniel, 2011, Rethinking Transcription in Contemporary Studies of Speakers of Stuttering Varieties, PhD Thesis in Anthropology, Berkeley, University of California.

Elsaesser, Thomas & Hagener, Malte, 2010, Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses, New York, Routledge.

Feng, Dezheng & O’Halloran, Kay L., 2012, “Representing emotive meaning in visual images: A social semiotic approach”, Journal of Pragmatics 44 (14), Amsterdam, Elsevier, p. 2067-2084.

Ford Williams, Gareth, 2009, BBC Online Subtitling Editorial Guidelines V1.1,

Garwood, Ian, 2013, The Sense of Film Narration, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

Ghiselli, Nina & Davis, Gina, 2011, “Stuttering: Fact or fiction?”, in PsycCRITIQUES 56 (13) doi:10.1037/a) 023604

Guillot, Marie-Noëlle, 2012, “Stylization and representation in subtitles: Can less be more?”, in Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 20 (4), Clevedon, Multingual Matters, p. 479-494.

Guitar, Barry, 2013, Stuttering: An Integrated Approach to Its Nature and Treatment, Baltimore, Williams & Wilkins.

Hoxter, Julian, 2015, The Pleasures of Structure: Learning Screenwriting Through Case Studies, London/New York, Bloomsbury.

ITC Guidance on Standards for Subtitling, 1999, London, Independent Television Commission,

Johnson, Jeffrey K., 2008, “The Visualization of the Twisted Tongue: Portrayals of Stuttering in Film, Television, and Comic Books”, The Journal of Popular Culture 41 (2), Hoboken, Blackwell Publishing, p. 245-261.

Johnson, Jeffrey, 2012, “The Changing Portrayals of People Who Stutter”, in L. Rubin (ed.), Mental Illness in Popular Media: Essays on the Representation of Disorders, London, McFarland & Company, p. 9-24.

Joyce, James, 1939, Finnegans Wake, London, Faber & Faber.

Kaplan, Robert, 2011, “The King’s Speech: the stuttering puffs of royal transference”, Australasian Psychiatry 19 (4), Oxford, Blackwell, p. 368-369.

Kibbey, Ann, 2013, “The articulate music of language in The King’s Speech, Semiotica 196 (1-4), The Hague, Mouton, p. 473-488.

Klevan, Andrew, 2005, Film Performance, London/New York, Wallflower Press.

Kozloff, Sarah, 1999, “Genre talk”, in P. Brophy (ed.), Cinesonic: The World of Sound in Film, North Ryde, Australian Film Television & Radio School, p. 108-28.

Lavid, Nathan, 2003, Understanding Stuttering, Jackson, University of Mississipi.

Le Fèvre-Berthelot, Anaïs, 2013, “Audio-Visual: Disembodied Voices in Theory”, InMedia 4, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle,

Leeuwen (van), Theo, 2009, “Voice. A Semiotics of the Voice”, in G. Harper, R. Doughty & J. Eisentraut (eds.), Sound and Music in Film and Visual Media: a Critical Overview, New York, Continuum, p. 425-436.

Lehrer, Jonah, 2011, “What ‘The King’s Speech’ gets wrong about stuttering”, The Wall Street Journal, 24 January 2011,

Logaldo, Mara, 2015 “‘What is royalty without a voice?’ The performance of power in The King’s Speech, Pólemos 9 (2), Roma/Berlin, Carocci/Giappichelli/De Gruyter, p. 311-330.

Marks, Laura, 2000, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, Durham, Duke University Press.

Martens, Todd, 2010, “The sound of silence: Alexandre Desplat on the music that ‘just floats’ throughout The King’s Speech”, Pop & Hiss (The LA Times music blog), 26 November,

Martin, Adrian, 1999, “Threads of voice”, in P. Brophy (ed.), Cinesonic: The World of Sound in Film, North Ryde, Australian Film Television & Radio School, p. 129-148.

McClarty, Rebecca, 2012, “Towards a multidisciplinary approach in creative subtitling”, MonTI 4, Alicante, Universidad de Alicante, p. 133-153.

McIntyre, Dan & Lugea, Jane, 2015, “The effects of deaf and hard-of-hearing subtitles on the characterisation process: a cognitive stylistic study of The Wire, in Perspectives Studies in Translatology 23 (1), Clevedon, Multingual Matters, p. 62-88.

Michel Fariña, Juan Jorge, 2011, “The King’s Speech: A bioethical approach. Or what the cinema teaches us about stuttering”, in Etica y Cine / Ethics and Films,

Neves, Josélia, 2005, Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, PhD Thesis in Audiovisual translation, London, Roehampton University.

, 2007, “A world of change in a changing world”, in J. Díaz Cintas, P. Orero & A. Remael (eds.), Media for All: Subtitling for the Deaf, Audiodescription and Sign Language, Amsterdam, Rodopi, p. 89-98.

, 2008, “10 fallacies about Subtitling for the d/Deaf and the hard of hearing, JoSTrans, The Journal of Specialised Translation 10,

Peberdy, Donna, 2013, “Male sounds and speech affectations: Voicing masculinity”, in J. Jaeckle (ed.), Film Dialogue, London/New York, Wallflower Press 2013, p. 206-219.

Pennacchia, Maddalena, 2016, “Culturally British bio(e)pics: From Elizabeth to The King’s Speech, in M. Minier & M. Pennacchia (eds.), Adaptation, Intermediality & the British Celebrity Biopic, London, Routledge, p. 33-49.

Pérez-González, Luis, 2013, “Co-creational subtitling in the digital media: transformative and authorial practices”, in International Journal Cultural Studies 16 (1), London, Sage, p. 3-21.

, 2014a, Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues, New York, Routledge.

, 2014b, “Multimodality in translation and interpreting studies: Theoretical and methodological perspectives”, in S. Bermann & C. Porter (eds.), A Companion to Translation Studies, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, p. 119-131.

Plantinga, Carl, 2009, Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator’s Experience, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Poyatos, Fernando, 1993, Paralanguage: A Linguistic and Interdisciplinary Approach to Interactive Speech and Sounds, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

, (ed.), 1997, Nonverbal Communication and Translation: New Perspectives and Challenges in Literature, Interpretation and the Media, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

, 2008, Textual Translation and Live Translation: The Total Experience of Nonverbal Communication in Literature, Theater and Cinema, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

Ramos Caro, Marina & Rojo, Ana, 2014, “‘Feeling’ audiodescription: Exploring the impact of AD on emotional response”, Translation Spaces 3, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, p. 133-150.

Ramos, Marina, 2015, “The emotional experience of films: does Audiodescription make a difference?”, The Translator 21 (1), Manchester, St. Jerome, p. 68-94.

Roberts Powers, Willow, 2005, Transcription Techniques for the Spoken Word, Lanham, Rowman Altamira.

Romero Fresco, Pablo, 2015, “Long questionnaire in the UK”, in P. Romero Fresco (ed.), The Reception of Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Europe, Bern, Peter Lang, p. 117-162.

Rowling, Joanne K., 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, London, Bloomsbury.

Sánchez-Mompeán, Sofía, 2016, “Prosodic rendition in dubbed and subtitled texts: A challenge for AVT practitioners”, Paper presented at the International Conference Linguistic and Cultural Representation in Audiovisual Translation, Rome, 11-13 February 2016.

Schingler, Martin, 2006, “Fasten your seatbelts and prick up your ears: the dramatic human voice in film”, in Scope 5, p. 1-12,

Seidler, David, 2010, The King’s Speech: The Shooting Script, New York, Newmarket Press.

Shell, Marc, 2005, Stutter, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Smith, Susan, 2007, “Voices in film”, in J. Gibbs & D. Pye (eds.), Close-Up 02, London/New York, Wallflower Press, p. 159-238.

Tan, Ed S., 1994,“Film-induced affect as a witness emotion”, Poetics 23, Amsterdam, Elsevier, p. 7-32

, 1996, Emotion and Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine, trans. Barbara Fasting, Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum.

Tetnowski, John A. & Scaler Scott, Kathy, 2012, “Fluency and fluency disorders”, in J.S. Damico, N. Müller & M.J. Ball (eds.), Handbook of Language and Speech Disorders, Somerset, John Wiley & Sons, p. 431-454.

Ward, David, 2006, Stuttering and Cluttering: Frameworks For Understanding and Treatment, Hove, Psychology Press.

Whittaker, Tom, 2012, “Locating ‘la voz’: The space and sound of Spanish dubbing”, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 13 (3), London, Carfax, p. 292-305.

Zacks, Jeffrey M., 2015, Flicker. Your Brain on Movies, New York, Oxford University Press.

Haut de page


2 . On paralinguistic elements in dubbing see also Chaume (1997 & 2012: 102-103).

3 . We offer here a parallelism with audiodescription in that both audiodescription and SDH are destined for an audience with some deficit and try to convey emotions and sensations by exploiting different semiotic channels.

4 . Edward VIII is the regnal name taken by Prince David, i.e. King George V’s eldest son and Bertie’s brother.

5 . The types of shots follow Lacey’s description (2005: 23). They have been abbreviated as follows: EXT CU= extreme close up (part of a face), CU = close up (a face), MED CUP = medium close up (someone’s head and shoulder), MED S = medium shot (most of someone’s body), MED LONG S = medium long shot (most of someone’s body), LONG S = long shot (two or three people’s whole bodies), EXT LONG S = extreme long shot (landscape).

6 . Transcription conventions: … Three dots indicate a long pause; -- Double dashes a tense pause (i.e. a speech block); - A dash a cut off; :: colons sound prolongations; ((word)) Double parentheses contain descriptions. We opted for an orthographic transcription of the film dialogue and a phonetic transcription of the stuttered forms.

7 . The sign < appears in the Italian SDH, where it is used conventionally to indicate off-camera voice.

8 . It should be noticed that the original “insert marbles” quite strangely becomes “Windsor marbles” in the English SDH, presumably because the expression could not be heard clearly by the subtitler.

9 . On the preferences of British Deaf and Hard of Hearing viewers concerning sound information see Romero Fresco (2015: 150 ; 16).

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Example 9
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Silvia Bruti et Serenella Zanotti, « Exploring the Sensory Dimension of Translated Films: An Analysis of The King’s Speech », Palimpsestes, 30 | -1, 154-177.

Référence électronique

Silvia Bruti et Serenella Zanotti, « Exploring the Sensory Dimension of Translated Films: An Analysis of The King’s Speech », Palimpsestes [En ligne], 30 | 2017, mis en ligne le 21 septembre 2017, consulté le 24 avril 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/palimpsestes.2488

Haut de page


Silvia Bruti

Silvia Bruti est maître de conférences de langue anglaise et de linguistique au département de philologie, littérature et linguistique de l’université de Pise, Italie. Ses recherches portent notamment sur l’analyse du discours, la pragmatique (historique), la linguistique de corpus, la traduction audiovisuelle et l’enseignement des langues étrangères. Elle a publié de nombreux articles et participé à diverses conférences nationales et internationales dans ces domaines. Elle étudie les questions relatives à la pragmatique interculturelle et à la traduction audiovisuelle, comme la traduction des compliments, les routines conversationnelles et les termes d’adresse dans les sous-titres interlinguistiques et le doublage. Elle a récemment publié une monographie sur la traduction de la politesse (2013) et codirigé plusieurs ouvrages, tels que Corpus Linguistics and Audiovisual Translation (numéro spécial de Perspectives, Studies in Translatology, 2013), Translation and Ethnicity (numéro spécial de The European Journal of English Studies, 2014) et Subtitling Today. Shapes and Their Meanings (2015).

Serenella Zanotti

Serenella Zanotti est maître de conférences de langue anglaise et de traduction au département de langues étrangères, littératures et cultures de l’université Roma Tre en Italie. Ses recherches portent sur un large éventail de sujets en linguistique et traduction anglaises, y compris la TAV, la pragmatique interculturelle, l’histoire de l’enseignement de l’anglais et la traduction littéraire et le translinguisme. Elle a publié de nombreux articles dans le domaine de la TAV. Ses recherches actuelles portent sur la représentation interculturelle, les études historiques de la réception et la génétique des traductions. Elle est l’auteur de The Italian Joyce. A Journey through Language and Translation (Bononia University Press, 2013) a co-dirigé plusieurs volumes, tels que The Translator as Author. Perspectives on Literary Translation (LitVerlag, 2011), Corpus Linguistics and Audiovisual Translation (numéro spécial de Perspectives, Studies in Translatology, 2013), Translation and Ethnicity (numéro spécial de The European Journal of English Studies, 2014), James Joyce’s Silences (Bloomsbury, à paraître) et Linguistic and Cultural Representation in Audiovisual Translation (Routledge, à paraître 2018).

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Tous droits réservés

Haut de page
  • Logo Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle
  • OpenEdition Journals