From the US to Rome passing through Paris

Accents and dialects in The Aristocats and its Italian dubbed version

By Silvia Bruti (University of Pisa)

Abstract

It is well-known that as much as linguistic variation is self-evident in real language, it is at the same time a very crucial issue in film language, which is “written to be spoken as if not written”. Variation, which can affect any language level, from pronunciation and grammar to lexis and pragmatic aspects, differentiates between speakers’ voices according to sociological criteria such as age, sex, social class, region, ethnicity and because of this it is highly relied on in a kind of cinema that aims at depicting contemporary society, like for example modern British films (cf Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Stephen Daldry, Peter Cattaneo). If such variation gives characters individual identities through language, it is however recognised as one of the major difficulties in film translation. As Armstrong notes (2004), one further element of difficulty is represented, especially in the UK - and in the English speaking world in general-, by the overlapping of regional and social dialects: in other words, the lower speakers are placed in the social hierarchy, the more diatopic and diastratic variation overlap. On the contrary the speech of well educated people is often quite neutral in terms of regional accent (cf RP as the ‘regionless’ accent).
Usually diatopic varieties, as Pavesi notes (2005: 36-37), are most difficult to transpose on account of the fact that it is hardly possible to find convincing counterparts in the target language and culture, i.e. a geolect that conveys the same connotations and the same stereotypical traits of meaning associated to the geolect in the source text; in addition, geolects in the target language may have an established tradition of their own and associations with clichéd characters.
In film translation, however, it happens that, at best, what is irreparably lost on the level of phonological variation is sometimes preserved either in some voice qualities (e.g. not only the well-recognised linguistic features of loudness, pitch, tempo, nasality, etc., but also more ‘impressionistic’ properties like gravely, strangled, throaty, etc; cf. Armstrong 2004) or in morphological and syntactic variation, which allow to represent a certain kind of deviation from the standard and to identify the locutor from a social point of view. However, morphosyntactic variation alone can hardly make up for the loss of all the shades of meaning attached to geographical dialects.
It is with these reflections in mind that I have decided to analyse the relationships between the original version of the Disney classic The Aristocats (1970) and its famous, successful dubbed version in Italian. Apparently the dubbed version seemed richer in accent and dialect variation, notably because of the remarkable performance by Renzo Montagnani as a lovable, unforgettable Italian stray cat, who introduces himself as “Er mejo der Colosseo” (in the original his name is Thomas O’Malley and he has Irish origins) but a closer analysis revealed that the original text also exploited voice and language variation, even though in different ways. The paper therefore aims to highlight the differences between the sociolinguistic and pragmatic meanings conveyed by the original and those expressed by the dubbed version, relating them to the parameters of target- and source culture, audience and language.

Keywords

Dubbing, accents, dialects, Disney, The Aristocats

©inTRAlinea & Silvia Bruti (2009).
"From the US to Rome passing through Paris"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: The Translation of Dialects in Multimedia
Edited by: M. Giorgio Marrano, G. Nadiani & C. Rundle
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/1713

1. Introduction

It is a well-known fact that as much as linguistic variation is self-evident in real language, it is at the same time a very crucial issue in film language, which is “written to be spoken as if not written” (Gregory 1967). Variation, which can affect any language level, from pronunciation and grammar to lexis and pragmatics, differentiates between speakers’ voices according to such sociological criteria as age, sex, social class, region, ethnicity and, because of this, it is highly relied on in a kind of cinema that aims at depicting contemporary society, such as modern British films (cf Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Stephen Daldry, Peter Cattaneo). If such variation gives characters individual identity through language, it is however recognised as one of the major difficulties in film translation. Taylor remarks that (1998: 219) “modern film portrays language as it is used from the bottom up, from the vernacular. The translator and film dubber must, however, be equally sensitive to the source language so as to be able to notice deviance and reproduce the same kind of differences in the target language. Parks (1995, quoted in Taylor 1998: 217) speaks of the ‘desire for authentic setting established through idiom’”.

As Armstrong notes (2004), one further element of difficulty is represented, especially in the UK, by the overlapping of regional and social dialects: in other words, the lower speakers are placed in the social hierarchy, the more diatopic and diastratic variation overlap (in the US, for instance, in Black English vernacular there is an overlapping of features related to social class and ethnic group). On the contrary the speech of well educated people is often quite neutral in terms of regional accent (cf RP as the ‘regionless’ accent). Yet, more than one parameter is always at work, like regional provenance and gender (cf Di Giovanni, Diodati, Franchini 1994).

Sociolinguistic scholarship states that the act of identity that takes place whenever a speaker talks is situated on three different levels, i.e. pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, and, while syntax is perceived as a marker of social cohesion, with the consequence that individuals try to reduce deviance, in pronunciation and lexis non-standard alternants are kept alive to mark the origin of the speaker (Hudson 1996: 45).

Usually diatopic varieties, as Pavesi notes (2005: 36-37; cf also Pernigoni 2005), are most difficult to transpose on account of the fact that it is hardly possible to find convincing counterparts in the target language and culture, i.e. a geolect that conveys the same connotations and the same stereotypical traits of meaning associated to the geolect in the source text; in addition, geolects in the target language may have an established tradition of their own and associations with cliché characters. Sometimes, as in the case of French (Armstrong 2004), the levelling that has taken place in pronunciation forces the translator to graft socio-stylistic variation onto other language levels, e.g. grammar and lexis [1].

So, in the end, the languages involved in the translation process largely influence the strategies that are to be adopted.

In film translation, however, it happens that, at best, what is irreparably lost on the level of phonological variation is sometimes preserved either in some voice qualities (e.g. not only the well-recognised linguistic features of loudness, pitch, tempo, nasality, etc., but also more ‘impressionistic’ qualities like a gravely, strangled, throaty voice; cf. Armstrong [2]) or in morphological and syntactic variation, which allow the translator to represent a certain kind of deviation from the standard and to identify the locutor from a social point of view. However, morphosyntactic variation alone can hardly make up for the loss of all the shades of meaning attached to geographical dialects.

Film uses language variation and accent to draw characters quickly, building on established preconceived notions associated with specific regional loyalties, ethnic, racial, or economic alliances. This shortcut to characterization means that certain traits need not be laboriously demonstrated by means of a character’s actions and an examination of motive. It also means that these characterizations are culture- and period-bound (Lippi-Green 1997: 81)

Before considering The Aristocats, the text which is analysed in this paper, some general considerations on varieties and fiction are in order. On the one hand it is true that actors obviously bring their voices, i.e. their native language, to their roles, even though they can undergo accent training of various types, in order either to get rid of their own accents or to imitate a particular one that is necessary for their role. It goes without saying that training does not always have the same results. It is interesting to notice that training programmes of this type focus on both technical aspects (e.g. articulatory phonetics) and also on content, trying for example to make it clear that exaggerating with the use of certain features might favour the forming of stereotypes. Sometimes accents or dialects may be functional to the narrative purpose of a film, thus contributing to shape the identity of its characters, but, quite interestingly, it also happens that a director may require his/her actors to use certain accents to suggest that the action takes place in a different place and that people in the film location would actually speak a different language. So, for example, in Schindler’s List, which is partially set in a Nazi concentration camp, the commanding officer, Ralph Fiennes (of British origin), speaks English with an artificial German accent in order to warn the audience of the fact that he would be speaking German (Lippi-Green 1997: 84). This measure does not so much play a role in creating a character as in delineating the setting in a believable way in order not to break the narrative contract which underlies any work of fiction. As Lippi-Green notes (1997: 84), it would be more coherent for all actors to use the same contrived accent, but this is in fact rarely the case, possibly because actors are not capable of producing an accent convincingly or of disguising their own, or also because accent is more often employed as a shortcut to characterisation rather than to a description of the setting.

In animated films linguistic features seem to be heavily relied on to build characters and to restate the stereotypes which are connected with them, because these audiovisual products do not only entertain but also aim to teach children some social values (Chiaro 1998; Di Giovanni 2003). In fact they usually do so by associating some features and some lifestyles with specific social groups by means of linguistic variation (Lippi-Green 1997: 85).

2. Linguistic aspects in Disney films and in The Aristocats

Lippi-Green (1997: 87) has analysed 24 fully-animated Disney movies and has thus obtained some quantitative data about linguistic aspects. 43.1% of the characters in her sample speak a variety of US English which is neither socially nor regionally stigmatised; 13.9% speak a variety of US English that is southern, urban or associated with an ethnic group and 21.8% speak a variety of British English. The interesting point is that within the same film US and British English may coexist with no special meaningful reason: in other words, the fact that characters speak in one or the other variety is not connected to their geographical origin, but may have been chosen in order to characterise them. In The Aristocats, for example, most of the main characters speak American English: Thomas O’Malley actually speaks a socially-marked US variety, Duchess a Hungarian-accented variety of English, the kittens American English, whereas the butler and the Gabble sisters speak British English. In addition, as often happens in films that are set in non-English speaking places, there are some characters that speak foreign-accented English. The milkman and the chef of Le Petit Café both speak English with a strong French accent, and in fact both swear in French (e.g. Sacre bleu !).

The case of Eva Gabor, the Hungarian actress that lends her voice to Duchess, is quite peculiar: it does not seem to make much sense to have this pure-bred Persian cat living in Paris speak with a marked Hungarian accent. Perhaps the choice was made because Gabor’s accent evoked the image of an attractive and elegant woman (Lippi-Green 1997: 96). Interestingly, Duchess is the only case of a mother who also lives a romance, because usually in Disney films parents are rarely shown as men and women who have a full-fledged love life. Lovers, on the contrary, marry quite early in life and are not shown as middle-aged people.

O’Malley (voiced by Phil Harris) also represents a distinctive case in Disney’s production, as he is one of the two male heroes who speak a socially marked variety of US English (the other is Jock from Lady and the Tramp, cf Lippi-Green 1997: 94). In these two cases the characterisation is not negative at all. Quite the reverse, these romantic male protagonists prove to be brave and generous and succeed in winning the love of well-bred, sophisticated females.

Another interesting case is provided by O’Malley’s mate, Scat Cat, who speaks African American Vernacular English, which normally conveys negative stereotypical values as it is associated with unemployed male characters or idle chaps whose occupation is to play music and have fun (see the crows in Dumbo and King Louie in The Jungle Book ). Scat Cat belongs to the latter category in that he is basically an entertainer, but he is also endowed with positive qualities, such as loyalty and generosity towards O’Malley.

3. The Aristocats

The Aristocats was released in 1970 by the Disney Studios. The story is about a family of aristocratic cats and an alley cat friend who rescues them from an evil butler who wants to “catnap” them in order to inherit his mistress’s fortune. This film is recognised as the last one that Walt Disney himself approved, as he died in 1966, when it was in the early stages of production. The title consists of a pun on the word ‘aristocrats’. The idea for the film is not original, as it was derived from Gay-Purree, an animated musical about talking cats in France produced by United Productions of America and released in 1962. This musical featured the voice talent of Judy Garland (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Aristocats and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Purr-ee ).

The Aristocats has therefore both animal and human characters, but it uses the funny animals convention of talking animals who are understood by all other species except humans. In front of humans the aristocats only purr or meow. Other species featured are dog, mouse, frog, horse, goose and rooster. The fact that they are animated animals accounts for the fact that the movements of the mouth and vocal organs are not as precisely represented as they are for humans in other audiovisual products: as a consequence, the synchronization requirements are enormously downgraded.

As pointed out before, the French setting is quite evident in the film from both visual and auditory signs: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Park Monceau, Place de l’Etoile, various stations of the metro with their typical liberty decorations and placards written in French (e.g. Loterie nationale ) all belong to the first group, whereas auditory linguistic signs pointing to the French setting belong to two different subtypes. There are some minor characters that speak with a French accent, as pointed out above (e.g. the milkman and the chef), but another paralinguistic feature is represented by Maurice Chevalier’s accent in the film’s opening song “The Aristocats”. The lyrics are mostly in English, apart from the refrain that contains the expression “Naturellement the Aristocats” and the last stanza which is completely in French. Another frequent means of conveying Frenchness is the use of French loans. French words in fact crop up from time to time. The one who uses them most extensively is Duchess, which is quite understandable because she attaches much importance to her breeding and behaviour. She always calls her mistress “Madame” pronounced ŕ la française and often uses the appellative “Monsieur” to address various males, e.g. Roquefort and O’Malley. When she becomes more acquainted with O’Malley she first switches to Mister O’Malley and then shortly afterwards to Thomas [3]. What is instead more controversial is the use of French words by O’Malley, who speaks a socially marked variety of US English, yet interspersed with some refined expressions such as elite, éclat, boulevard, avant-guard, magnifique, and presto, breakfast à la cart .

3.1. Italian Dubbing

The dubbing of The Aristocats (1971, shortly after the release of the original in 1970) has been recognised as very convincing and captivating by both scholars (Pavesi 2005: 38), critics (cf. http://www.repubblica.it/2007/01/sezioni/spettacoli_e_cultura/casting-robinson/doppiaggio/doppiaggio.html) and audience (http://www.reflections.it/approfondimenti/04/text.htm; cf. also the forum on Italian dubbing, http://dvd.forumcommunity.net/?t=2739858&view=getlastpost; cf. also the opinion of dubbing actress Emanuela Rossi, who gave her voice to one of the kittens. She expresses her deepest admiration for Renzo Montagnani in the role of Romeo: “Intervista a Emanuela Rossi”, http://www.antoniogenna.net/doppiaggio/interviste/erossi.htm), an opinion that is proven by the fact that it is one of the few Disney films that has not been re-dubbed for recent DVD releases. In fact, the large majority of these children’s classics are now only available in the newer dubbed version on DVD (e.g. Snowhite, Cinderella, Pinocchio, The Adventures of Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp ; for some comments on this topic cf http://www.gentedirispetto.com/forum/archive/index.php?t-80.html).

Table 1 below contains the names of the characters in the original and dubbed version, the names of the original actors and of the Italian actors that dubbed them. Among the original voices many can be recognised as Disney voices, because they were employed in several productions (e.g. Monica Evans was Maid Marian in Robin Hood, Carole Shelley Lady Cluck in Robin Hood ). Most of the Italian actors are instead famous either as actors tout court (Montagnani, Lionello) or as very talented dubbing actors (Martello, Gaipa, D’Assunta, Quinterno) [4].





Table 1: names of the characters in the original and dubbed version, the names of the original actors and of the Italian actors that dubbed them


Table 2 below contains information concerning the various actors involved in the dubbing process.






Table 2: Actors involved in the dubbing process[5]


Before comparing some significant extracts, a few general remarks are in order, in particular about naming and characterisation. Names most often represent meaningful signs referring to objects, especially in a kind of narrative where much is entrusted to images and symbols, or also suggest references to some representative elements of the cultural background (cf in Di Giovanni 2003: 218-221 references to food, gods, institutions). Translating names is however always problematic, in that names are deeply rooted in the source context and have been chosen to perfectly fit the setting the original author created, in this case an adventure which takes place in Paris and the neighbouring countryside. Usually, therefore, they are only transliterated or adapted (Osimo 2004). The audience of children for whom the film is destined unquestionably justifies a less constrained treatment of names, which in this case are also realia (e.g. specific of the context and meaningful; cf. Pascua-Febles 2006: 116). As a result many of them stay the same (e.g. Madame Adelaide, Georges Hautecourt and Edgar the butler), some of them with a transliterateration in the target language: Duchess becomes Duchessa, Napoleon Napoleone. Others instead are changed into functional equivalents in the target language. So, for instance, Uncle Waldo, a fairly unusual name, becomes Zio Reginaldo, and the two twin sisters Amelia and Abigail Gabble, a typical example of nomen omen, become Adelina and Guendalina Bla Bla. More significant changes affect the names of the three kittens: in fact in the original their names are Marie, Toulouse e Berlioz, whereas in the Italian version they are Minou, Matisse and Bizet. For once the change is justifiable as the Italian solutions seem to be more sound and convincing than those in the original: Marie is not so typically French as Minou, which has a distinctive French flavour, and even though it is reported that it might have been chosen in honour of Maria Callas, the link is quite feeble (cf http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gli_Aristogatti ); Matisse and Toulouse are roughly equivalent as they are both painters’ names, but Matisse is perhaps more widely known in Italy, as Toulouse perhaps is not so promptly associated to the full-name of the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; the choice of Bizet is on the whole more meaningful, in that it triggers an intertextual reference that Berlioz doesn’t activate (and the fact that Berlioz is the composer of La Marseilleise, the French national anthem, is equally unknown to most people). Once again both names refer to famous composers but Bizet is more deeply rooted in the story, because when Georges Hautecourt first visits his friend Adelaide, they try to revive their youthful friendship by dancing to the notes of Bizet’s Carmen, the opera that made Adelaide famous as a singer. The link is therefore both acoustic and visual, as when Duchess and her kittens have their music lesson, a score with Bizet’s named printed on it can be seen on the piano.

The name of the little mouse friend to the Aristocats represents an example of a clear reference to the cultural heritage of the setting, Roquefort, a very famous and refined cheese, that is appropriately transposed into Groviera, actually not an Italian cheese (itself an adaptation of the French word Gruyčre), but certainly one that is quite popular in Italy.

One final word for the male leading actor, Thomas O’Malley in the original and only Romeo in dubbing: in fact Romeo is memorable enough to be called only by first name, a name which is motivated by the rhyme with his own description of himself, “er mejo der Colosseo”, which also specifies his Italian origin (in the original it is only the surname that suggests his Irish origin, but no explicit reference is ever made). Yet the choice of the name Romeo also evokes a typical love scenario, as the name immediately triggers the Shakespearean reference.

Because of space constraints, the analysis of the language in the original and in the dubbed version will be confined to two excerpts, which represent however two crucial episodes in the plot, Thomas O’Malley/Romeo’s first appearance (scene 7 - in the DVD version) and the meeting with Scat Cat and his gang at O’Malley’s place, with the famous jazz song “Everybody wants to be a cat”/“Tutti quanti voglion fare il jazz” (scene 15).

3.2 A first meeting with O’Malley/Romeo

After Edgar has catnapped them, Duchess and the kittens find themselves in the countryside, in the middle of a storm. Worried, they decide to sleep in their basket and wait for morning. At dawn, Duchess and the kittens meet a sociable, self-absorbed, experienced stray cat named Abraham De Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, who befriends them and promises to help them get home, apart from making a pass at Duchess. In fact, Thomas/Romeo is immediately struck by Duchess’s beauty and, likewise, she falls for him. After an initial reluctance, Thomas/Romeo takes on an indulgent, paternal role toward the kittens, who are quite impressed by this handsome, apparently expert newcomer.

When Thomas/Romeo arrives, he introduces himself by singing a song and strolling around in his typical matter-of-fact, nonchalant way.






As briefly hinted at before, O’Malley speaks a socially marked variety of US English. In fact, his idiolect is rich in features that are typically associated with working class speakers. Phonetically the most remarkable traits are the simplification of the phoneme /N/ which is always realised as /n/ (graphically signalled - according to universal conventions - as -n’, e.g. goin’, showin’, tellin’ ) and the reduction of unstressed pronoun forms, e.g. //3m/ > /3m/;, but basically what contributes to identify him as a lower class speaker pertains to syntax and lexis. He uses typical substandard forms, such as pleonastic pronoun forms, for example “gotta strut them city streets”, where the pronoun is absolutely unnecessary, and the typical American forms gotta, wanna, etc. His choice of vocabulary is yet more symptomatic of his social rank, even though he may at times seems erudite because of the sparse use of French words. This creates, I think, an even more evident clash that makes his idiom unique, at times somewhat ludicrous. In his introductory song he says “I’ve got that wanderlust Gotta walk the scene Gotta kick up highway dust Feel the grass that’s green Gotta strut them city streets Showin’ off my éclat, yeah! Tellin’ my friends of the social elite Or some cute cat I happen to meet” and later “I’m the king of the highway Prince of the boulevard Duke of the avant-garde The world is my backyard So if you’re goin’ my way That’s the road you wanna seek Calcutta to Rome or home sweet home In Paris Magnifique, you all”. As can be seen, the French words are set in a fairly informal, inconsequential linguistic texture, both for the content that is conveyed - basically the fact that O’Malley is an alley cat and is at home everywhere and his lackadaisical attitude - and for the word choice.

Quite the contrary, the choice of making Thomas a Roman cat is finely characterised by his accent and a whole series of phonetic traits. Among the most frequent there are rhotacism, i.e. the change of /l/ into /r/ when followed by a consonant sound: e.g. dorce, ber pezzo ; apocope, i.e. the truncation of words as in “Ma pure da emigrato, Mica so’ cambiato”, or “Chi tante storie fa A prega’ nun sto”; the deletion of initial vowel sounds when followed by a nasal sound: e.g. ‘n for un, ‘mparà for impara(re), “sei ‘na carogna”; assimilation, as in “fasse rispetta’” where the original /r/ (= farsi ) is turned into /s/; because of the following /s/; reduction of the diphthong “uo” to “o” as in “le pupe bbone” (instead of le pupe buone ) and of the cluster “gli” in “j” as in “er mejo”.

On the lexical level Romeo’s speech seems to be more coherent, with no major clashes in formality, as he sticks to an informal tone throughout the song. Some eminently popular terms, or ones that in regional varieties have a different meaning, are the following: “acchitterò” (from acchittare), which in Roman dialect means to smart oneself up (or if applied to cars and vehicles in general it means to soup them up to make them run faster), “baccaglierai” (from baccagliare) [6], which again in regional (e.g. central/northern) varieties, especially in youth speak, means “to approach somebody of the other sex”, but in this context has the other national reading of “to tell somebody off, to scream, to claim a right that has been wronged”. On the whole, even though the content of the song is not so dissimilar in the two versions, in English Thomas is depicted more as a tramp, whereas in Italian Romeo turns out to be more of a womanizer. However, Romeo is certainly a memorable character in the mind of viewers, both for his enjoyable idiolect and for his personality, whereas critics of the original version state that “neither [the] superficial story nor [the] characters have any resonance” (Maltin 1995: 262).

3. 3. “Everybody wants to be a cat” / “Tutti quanti voglion fare il jazz”

When O’Malley and the family finally get to Paris, they take shelter in an old house, where they find Thomas’s musical alley cat friends, led by Scat Cat. They represent a surprise element in the plot, with their noisy yet exhilarating presence.

This part of the movie is perhaps the most attractive in both languages because of the captivating rhythm of the music. Scat Cat and his band are a gang of various stray cats of different origin, an element that is kept in the dubbing as well: apart from Scat Cat, there are a Russian Cat, an Italian Cat, a Chinese Cat, all of which are both physically and phonetically characterized. The message is that music, and jazz in particular, involves everyone and abolishes social and national boundaries.









The lyrics are characterized by the locutors’ style, plain, full of non standard expressions and of terms belonging to the register of swingers, some slang expressions, either British or American.

The first slang phrase to be found is the second occurrence of the item “cat” in the expression “Because a cat’s the only cat” where it means “guy”. “Cat”, however, is also a slang expression designating someone who is fond of jazz music, a meaning that is supposedly accessible to an audience of adults more than of children. Another slang term is “square”, which seems to refer to someone who is a conformer, a meaning that is reinforced by “obsolete” and “strictly high-button shoes”, but which also makes reference to the instrument the cats are singing with. The expression “bird” is yet another example of slang, in that apart from the ordinary meaning it also means young boy. The Russian Cat employs terms that pertain to the lexicon of music, of jazz: “wants to dig”, which means “would like” and “gig”, i.e. a single professional engagement, usually of short duration.

Then O’Malley sings along with Marie and they use a symbol to illustrate the kind of hospitality that is usually given to jazz singers: “When playin’ jazz he always has A welcome mat”. It is interesting to notice that Marie, an aristocratic kitten, here shares the traits of O’Malley’s style, i.e. apocope, apheresis, and slang (e.g. “digs”).

The Chinese Cat’s stanza is semantically quite complex, with some words belonging to the jargon of jazz singers and some phonetic deviations that signal his inadequate command of the language. A verbless stanza, with the repetition of the phoneme /N/, which literally makes no sense: “Egg too young” means an immature person, with a hyperbaton: egg = person; “fortune cookie” is a Chinese dessert consisting in a biscuit folded several times containing a small proverb on a piece of paper; but “cookie” also means “sweetheart” and in US slang “guy”, whereas “hot” has the US slang meaning of “a lucky person”. The impression is that of an ungrammatical stretch of discourse hastily put together by a non native speaker of English.

Duchess, whose language is usually quite polished, is here also under the influence of jazz and therefore resorts to “swing” in a very melodious piece, where sensuality is obtained thanks to the many lateral consonants employed (“And b

l ow a l itt l e sou l

into the tune”). Her kitten Toulouse rejoins with the slang expression “groovy”, which means “cool”.

Finally in the last stanza the bizarre Scat Cat turns to a more learned register, with formal, Latin or Latinate words, e.g. “ad libs”, abbreviation of ad libitum, “commence”, “congregating”, “beneath”, and “Hallelujah”, some of which have a religious association which is not unusual in soul music. It is a burst of joy, praise and gratitude which expresses the happiness of this group of cats for the simple fact of being and playing together.

All in all, the global message contained in the lyrics is about a kind of ‘catness’ linked to the life of stray cats, one that is insecure and dangerous, but which offers freedom and plenty of adventure and certainly not to the ‘catness’ of the aristocats, who live in a softened, glossy world but do not experience the thrill of the street. This gist is perhaps intuitively grasped by the audience by integrating information deriving from the visual channel, but it is not so evident from the verbal choices. In fact, one might wonder whether the multi-layered richness of the lyrics is transparent for an audience of children, at least those of pre-school age; in other words, are they - the privileged and intended audience for this film - capable of penetrating all the intricacies of slang [7] - in particular the slang of musicians - and the various other registers that have been used, or are they perhaps more prone to an immediate, unsophisticated reading?

Christopher Taylor (1994: 144) has also tackled the problem of the semantic contribution of theme songs in Disney film: in analysing Alice in Wonderland he found that, differently from what usually happens, the second song in Alice is quite crucially related to the theme of the film.

What happens then in the Italian lyrics? The theme of the song is approximately the same, only it is made more explicit. In fact the song itself is a reflection on the power of music, on how jazz is incomparably more lively and vigorous, entertaining and aggregating than other music styles such as polka, rondò, tango and foxtrot. But jazz is here to be intended as metaphorically extended to a kind of life, the one that stray cats lead, which is infinitely more attractive than that of domestic cats. Furthermore, the speech of the various foreign members of Scat Cat’s band is more clearly characterised [8], this time by exploiting both phonetic variation and foreign vocabulary. The Chinese Cat regularly substitutes the central approximant /r/ with the lateral /l/ (e.g. “Folza, lagazzi, facciamo clollale le paleti, questa sì che è folte; Lagazzi, che soffiata”), a device that makes his speech much more effective and amusing than the original. The nationality is in this case also reinforced by the visuals, as the cat has the typical slant eyes and holds a pair of rice sticks. In the dubbed version the Russian Cat, for whose characterisation elements of the visual code are not particularly helpful, has a deep, guttural voice and a stereotypical associated prosody that perfectly fit the common idea of the Russian man, but he also uses the term “tovarisch”, meaning comrade, especially in Russian communism, thereby making the link much more obvious.

On the whole, therefore, the message is conveyed more clearly, more directly on the linguistic surface, in the same light-hearted, cheeky tone and with a contribution of the phonetic qualities of Romeo and his mates’ speech.

4. Concluding remarks

On the whole, even though the attention has been mainly focused on songs, it can be claimed that in the dubbed version in general, linguistic variety is qualitatively and quantitatively significant. First of all it permeates all language levels, from phonetics to lexis, syntax and pragmatics, thereby obtaining a kind of speech that is rich, articulated and certainly similar to spontaneous speech. In other words, differently from what often happens in dubbing, the resulting Italian is not, as Raffaelli (1996) says, “un Italiano per tutte le stagioni”.

Furthermore, the complex, babelic mixture of accents, dialects and foreign idioms of the original often finds a better and more coherent configuration in the Italian version of the film. The accents of the members of Scat Cat’s company are more evidently portrayed, the Bla Bla sisters speak the typical, funny Italian of British speakers, and some other narrative incongruities are levelled out. For instance, the somewhat inconsistent association of French loanwords to socially marked expressions in O’Malley’s speech finds a more consistent counterpart in Romeo’s homogeneous idiolect. On the whole, therefore, not only the outstanding work of a team of skilled actors, but also the careful attention to the linguistic intricacies of the source text, together with the conscientious interest for the ideal audience on the part of the translators/adaptors, contribute to make Gli Aristogatti an enjoyable film and a memorable piece of dubbing.

References

Armstrong, Nigel (2004). “Voicing The Simpsons from English into French: a story of a variable success. Jostrans, 2 (July 2004). http://www.jostrans.org/issue02/art_armstrong.php

Baccolini, R., R. M. Bollettieri Bosinelli, L. Gavioli (a cura di) (1994). Il doppiaggio. Trasposizioni linguistiche e culturali. Bologna: Clueb.

Chiaro Nocella, Delia (1998). “Talking Disney: Reflections on What Children Watch”. British/American Variation in Language, Theory and Methodology, Carol Taylor Torsello, Louann Haarman, Laura Gavioli, eds., 97-104.

Di Fortunato, Eleonora, Mario Paolinelli, Mario a cura di (1996). Barriere linguistiche e circolazione delle opere audiovisive: la questione doppiaggio. Roma: Aidac.

Di Giovanni, Elena (2003). “Cultural Otherness and Global Communication in Disney Films at the Turn of the Century”. The Translator, 9, 2: 207-224.

Di Giovanni, Elena, Francesca Diodati, Giorgia Franchini (1994). “Il problema delle varietŕ linguistiche nella traduzione filmica”. Il doppiaggio. Trasposizioni linguistiche e culturali, a cura di Raffaella Baccolini, Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli, Laura Gavioli, 99-104.

Garzone, Giuliana, a cura di (2005). Esperienze del tradurre. Aspetti teorici e applicativi, Milano: Franco Angeli.

Gregory, Michael (1967). “Aspects of Varieties Differentiation”, Journal of Linguistics, 3: 177-198.

Hudson, Richard A. (1980/1996). Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lippi-Green, Rosina (1997). English with an Accent. Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States. London/New York: Routledge.

Maltin, Leonard (1995). The Disney Films. New York: Hyperion.

Osimo, Bruno (2004). Manuale del traduttore. Milano: Hoepli.

Parks, Tim (1995). “Re-thinking the task of the translator”. Rivista internazionale di tecnica della traduzione, 1: 33-44.

Pascua-Febles, Isabel (2006). “Translating Cultural References. The Language of Young People in Literary Texts”. Children’s Literature in Translation, Jan Van Collie, Walter P. Verschueren, eds, 111-121.

Pavesi, Maria (2005). La traduzione filmica. Aspetti del parlato doppiato dall’inglese all’italiano. Roma: Carocci.

Pernigoni, Arianna (2005). “Varietŕ substandard e doppiaggio: il caso di East is East, Bend it like Beckham e Monsoon Wedding . Esperienze del tradurre. Aspetti teorici e applicativi, a cura di Giuliana Garzone, 57-175.

Raffaelli, Sergio (1996). “Un italiano per tutte le stagioni”, Barriere linguistiche e circolazione delle opere audiovisive: la questione doppiaggio, a cura di Eleonora Di Fortunato, Mario Paolinelli, 25-28.

Taylor, Christopher (1994). “Il doppiaggio delle canzoni: un commento alla traduzione di Cats and Rabbits da Alice in Wonderland. Il doppiaggio. Trasposizioni linguistiche e culturali, a cura di Raffaella Baccolini, Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli, Laura Gavioli. 143-149.

Taylor, Christopher (1998). “Nonstandard language in English and American Films: Questions regarding Transaltion and Dubbing”. British/American Variation in Language, Theory and Methodology, Carol Taylor Torsello, Louann Haarman, Laura Gavioli eds., 215-226.

Taylor Torsello, Carol, Louann Haarman, Laura Gavioli (a cura di) (1998). British/American Variation in Language, Theory and Methodology. Bologna: Clueb.

Van Collie, Jan, Walter P. Verschueren, (eds) (2006). Children’s Literature in Translation. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Web references

Morgoglione, Claudia. (2007). Tutti i segreti del doppiaggio Disney Dopo Nemo e Koda, č l’ora di Grufolo. http://www.repubblica.it/2007/01/sezioni/spettacoli_e_cultura/casting-robinson/doppiaggio/doppiaggio.html

Forum sul doppiaggio italiano (2006). http://dvd.forumcommunity.net/?t=2739858&view=getlastpost Intervista a Emanuela Rossi, http://www.antoniogenna.net/doppiaggio/interviste/erossi.htm

Yo bro, nice bling, innit. IC South London. http://icsouthlondon.icnetwork.co.uk/

http://www.antoniogenna.net/doppiaggio/doppiaggio.htm (informazioni sui film in versione originale e doppiata)

 

Notes

[1]Consider in Armstrong 2004 the discussion of the French translation of The Simpsons. The author reports one example where Bart uses a mixture of slang terms and Cockney features which is necessarily rendered on the lexical level only in French, as the translation of “a socio-regional stereotype […] defies the translator’s art”. Bart: You mean it ain’t me noggin, it’s me peepers? Oh well, that’s just loverely! > Ça viendrait pas d ma caboche mais d mes mirettes? Ça alors, c’est chouette!, where “caboche” and “mirette” try to somehow compensate the social-regional language, being however less marked than their counterparts in English because of their frequency of use in French.

[2]Armstrong says that they translate well across languages because “its physicality lends it universal properties”.

[3]When she calls him Thomas, he already uses endearments such as baby, honey.

[4]Melina Martello gave her voice to Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Kathleen Turner, but also to many cartoon characters, such as Duchessa, Bianca in Le Avventure di Bianca e Bernie, Biancaneve in the 1972 re-dubbed version (the original dating back to 1938), Barbamamma in the series Le Avventure di Barbapapà; Angiolina Quinterno, who lent her voice to stars such as Shirley MacLaine, Vanessa Redgrave and Maggie Smith, was also Guendalina Bla Bla, Barbaforte and Barbabravo in the series Le Avventure di Barbapapà; Solvejg D’Assunta, who dubs on a regular basis actresses such as Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Midler, also features in children movies, in the role of Adelina Bla Bla and as Barbazoo and Barbalalla in Le Avventure di Barbapapà. Corrado Gaipa (who dubbed Alec Guiness in Star Wars) also appeared in many animated films, as Scat Cat in Gli Aristogatti, as Bagheera in Il libro della giungla and in many others.

[5]The information in Table 1 and 2 is available at: http://www.antoniogenna.net/doppiaggio/doppiaggio.htm

[6]See De Mauro-Paravia dictionary online for the two meanings (http://www.demauroparavia.it/).

[7]Recent trends show however that London schoolchildren actually master popular street talk but never use Standard English, not even in formal context and written presentation (cf. IC South London, website: http://icsouthlondon.icnetwork.co.uk/ ).

[8]There are also an Italian cat and an English cat, who however do not take part in the song. The former greets O’Malley in Italian when he arrives with Duchess and the kittens, “Buonasera, paesano”, pronounced with a Southern accent; the latter has a hippy look and also greets O’Malley, “Welcome home, O’Malley”.

 

About the author(s)

Silvia Bruti is Associate Professor of English Linguistics at the Faculty of Forein Languages of the University of Pisa, where she graduated in 1993. In 1997 she received a Ph.D. in English from the Universities of Pisa and Florence.
She has done research in text-linguistics, (historical) pragmatics and applied linguistics. Her publications are in the areas of cohesion and coherence, markedness and text complexity, corpus linguistics and TESOL. She has worked on reformulation and paraphrase, on which she edited a collection of essays (2004). More recently her research has focused on intercultural pragmatics (English/Italian) and on the translation of pragmatic meaning in interlinguistic subtitles and dubbing (e.g. the translation of compliments and of terms of address).

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©inTRAlinea & Silvia Bruti (2009).
"From the US to Rome passing through Paris"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: The Translation of Dialects in Multimedia
Edited by: M. Giorgio Marrano, G. Nadiani & C. Rundle
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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