‘Mr Treehorn treats objects like women, man’:

A map of drug-induced language variation in cinema and its translation

By Guillermo Parra López (Pompeu Fabra University, Spain)

Abstract

Much research has been conducted on the translation of language variation and marked speech in its various forms, as proved by this 4th special issue on the translation of dialects in multimedia. There is one variety, however, which seems to have been broadly overlooked in translation studies so far, which I have previously referred to as disorderly speech or DIS (Parra López 2016): drug-induced language variation. This concept arises from the need to account for a particular, though widespread phenomenon in audiovisual fiction, that is, the portrayal of the effects of intoxication on a character’s linguistic output.

The present article relies on L3 theory (Corrius and Zabalbeascoa 2011; Zabalbeascoa 2012) to analyse instances of DIS found in English-language films including Almost Famous (Bryce, Crowe, and Crowe 2000), Blazing Saddles (Hertzberg and Brooks 1974), and Leaving Las Vegas (Figgis 1995) and their dubbed and subtitled versions in Spanish. A detailed study of these instances shows that intoxication can have a broad range of effects on characters depending on its stylistic, narrative, or characterising functions and that the translation of DIS is far from straightforward.

Further research on this new realisation and its interplay with other semiotic modes in audiovisual texts would be useful to both film and translation studies. While the former could explore the different resources film offers t0 portray intoxication, the latter could benefit from the depiction of DIS to understand how it can be recreated in other languages.

Keywords: alcohol, drugs, dubbing, subtitling, disorderly speech, dialect, language variation, cinema

©inTRAlinea & Guillermo Parra López (2020).
"‘Mr Treehorn treats objects like women, man’: A map of drug-induced language variation in cinema and its translation"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: The Translation of Dialects in Multimedia IV
Edited by: Klaus Geyer & Margherita Dore
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2462

1. Introduction

This study departs from the premise that, the same way that behaviour, facial expression, and body language can act as indices of intoxication in persons under the influence (PUIs), it is also possible to identify them through the way they verbally express themselves. Alcohol and drugs often affect the speech of PUIs in a way that, without being necessarily universal, can be easily identified by most observers, especially when an actor or actress exaggerates them as part of an impersonation (Andrews, Cox, and Smith 1977; Hollien, DeJong, Martin 1998). In previous publications, I have referred to this phenomenon as disorderly speech or DIS (Parra López 2016), and it constitutes a common translation problem that is frequently obviated in translation research.

The present article analyses several instances of DIS found in a wide range of English-language films with significant substance use and their dubbed and subtitled versions in Spanish. The goal is to explore the different ways in which DIS is portrayed in STs and how this portrayal may have an impact on audiovisual translation, so films have been selected on the basis of the features they display, rather than the extratextual factors surrounding them.

2. The nature of disorderly speech

I use the term disorderly speech to refer to the fictional representation of any functional speech disorder (Bloodstein 1979: 6-7) that temporarily affects characters’ language, articulation, voice, or fluency. Apart from substance intoxication, which will be the focal point of this article, DIS can be caused by different factors, including lack of sleep, trauma, or psychological instability (Parra López 2016). Despite borrowing part of the terminology from other scientific disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, neurology, or pharmacology, for the study of audiovisual translation, it is necessary to draw a division between reality and fiction.

Cinema is governed by the rules and limitations of the medium and is exploited accordingly to the style and intention of each filmmaker. This means that the representation of characters under the influence (CUIs) is often variable and unpredictable and may or may not be meant to evoke reality. In this respect, DIS is comparable to other types of language variation or phenomena such as multilingualism (Parra López 2014; Parra López 2016). Hence the following reflection by Sternberg (1981: 235) also applies:

The realistic force of polylingual representation, like that of the text's simulacrum of reality as a whole, is relatively independent of the objective (verbal and extraverbal) facts as viewed and established by scientific inquiry. What is artistically more crucial than linguistic reality is the model(s) of that reality as internally patterned or invoked by the individual work and/or conventionally fashioned by the literary tradition and/or conceived of by the [viewer] within the given cultural framework.

To avoid reference to specific languages or varieties and to analyse the problem of language variation and multilingualism with higher abstraction, Corrius and Zabalbeascoa (2011) propose L3-theory, further developed in later publications (Zabalbeascoa 2012; Zabalbeascoa and Corrius in press; Zabalbeascoa and Voellmer 2015). The authors distinguish the main language(s) of the source text (ST), which they term L1, from the main language(s) of the target text (TT), or L2, and any other identifiable language or variety: L3. Depending on the version of the text where it appears, they introduce a further distinction between the L3 present in the ST (that is, L3ST) and the L3 that is used in the TT (L3TT).

Following this framework, DIS found in source films would be one type of L3ST, generally L1-based, that may or may not be rendered in the translation. However, before discussing potential translation solutions, it is necessary to understand the possibilities fiction offers for the representation of this phenomenon. What follows is an adaptation of Sternberg’s (1981: 223-32) categories for the fictional representation of multilingualism, which I have applied to the study of DIS. Categories are ordered from greatest to least presence of L3:

  • Vehicular matching: This representation technique consists in the use of real speech defects and disorders without any filters and in all the circumstances in which they would occur naturally. That is, CUIs always talk as such. This may be the case, for example, of documentaries or of certain films in which method acting has gone further than usual. Perhaps the most striking and extreme example of this practice can be found in The Drunk Series (Wilson and Persson 2013), in which all the characters are played by visibly drunk actors and actresses who represent a script that was also written by PUIs. In fact, DIS is so present in the series that it could be considered as the L1.
  • Selective representation: In this case, speech defects and disorders are also shown as such. The difference with respect to vehicular matching is that this kind of speech is limited to specific occasions (selective matching) and appears in combination with unmarked interventions in L1 (selective leveling).
  • Verbal transposition: Instead of including actual speech defects and disorders, they are evoked (Bleichenbacher 2008: 59) in the text through the use of certain markers (Chin and Pisoni 1997) that give rise to DIS. These are also referred to in the literature as affective or symptomatic indices (Abercrombie 1967: 9; Lyons 1977: 108), cues (Gottschalk, Gleser, and Springer 1963; Scherer 2003) or triggers (Fowler 2000: 34; Guillot 2012). They can be specific to DIS or belong to another language or language variety, as long as their appearance is attributable to a CUI. The latter option would be the case, for instance, of a speaker whose foreign or dialectal traits are exaggerated after drinking alcohol as a symptom of disinhibition, as happens in the film Beerfest (Gerber, Perello, and Chandrasekhar 2006).
  • Explicit attribution: Instead of representing the influence through changes in the speech of characters, who express themselves in the L1, other strategies are used: the explicit mention of the alteration, the utterance of drug-related puns, or a whole range of resources from any of the meaning-making modes of the audiovisual text, such as image, sound, music or editing (Pérez-González 2014; Stöckl 2004). This practice is also conventionally adopted in subtitling for the deaf and the hard of hearing (Zdenek 2015: 250-4), where the manner of speaking is specified in the identifiers (that is, the notes in brackets) preceding dialogue.
  • Homogenising convention: Despite the use of disorder-inducing substances in the film, there is no trace of their effects, neither in the form of DIS or any other L3 nor by any other means.

The first three categories, in which some form of L3 is used, represent what Deleuze (1994: 107-8) called ‘to do it’, as opposed to ‘say[ing] it without doing it’, which would correspond to Sternberg’s explicit attribution. What these strategies offer in terms of richness and convincing portrayal, they sacrifice in comprehensibility, and vice versa (Bleichenbacher 2008: 173; Kozloff 2000: 80). For this reason, when representing the effects of alcohol or drugs in cinema, it is most common to avoid the extremes and opt for solutions in the middle of the spectrum, especially through the use of verbal transposition.

3. Alcohol and drugs in cinema

Judging by the scarce attention it has received in the fields of linguistics and translation, one could consider DIS as a peripheral phenomenon, as peculiar as it is exceptional. However, studies on the influence of alcohol and drugs in cinematic characters prove the exact opposite: 79 percent of top-grossing American films from 1985 to 1995 show one or more lead characters using alcohol (Everett, Schnuth, and Tribble 1998). This trend has remained at 83 percent after the change of century (Dal Cin et al. 2008) and only drops to figures around 50 percent in the case of films for all audiences (Dal Cin et al. 2008; Goldstein, Sobel, and Newman 1999; Thompson and Yokota 2001).

Regarding studies on the use of illegal substances by cinematic characters, Markert (2013) offers one of the most recent and complete overviews. In an appendix, it includes an exhaustive list of films and TV-series that have depicted any form of substance abuse between 1960 and 2010: cannabis appears in 194; morphine and heroin, in 217; cocaine and crack, in 187; hallucinogenics, in 92; methamphetamine, in 27, and ecstasy, in 23.

Logically, these data do not imply that a character is necessarily shown under the influence in all the titles above, but they do allow us to understand the potential scope of the phenomenon in cinema.

4. A typology of DIS markers: some examples and their translation

When resorting to verbal transposition for the portrayal of CUI’s, filmmakers have at their disposal a wide array of markers from any linguistic level: phonetic, morphological, lexical-semantic, syntactic, pragmatic, and conversational. Many of these are nonspecific symptoms and take the form of errors that any speaker could make in spontaneous speech, but it is their calculated use in fictional dialogue, in certain circumstances and in combination with other verbal and non-verbal elements, which identifies them as markers of CUIs. Below is a selection of examples from each of the linguistic levels taken from several English-language films where substance use plays a plot-significant role. All examples are accompanied by their Spanish translation in the dubbed (TTD) and subtitled (TTS) versions.

4.1. Phonetic markers

One of the first symptoms of PUIs tends to be irregular articulation, which frequently results in such phonetic phenomena as elision, substitution, or lengthening of sounds (Sobell and Sobell 1972; Lester and Skousen 1974; Trojan and Kryspin-Exner 1968). In the following example from Leaving Las Vegas (Cazès et al. 1995), the protagonist, who is an alcoholic, is thinking aloud with a tape recorder in his hand while standing in a queue at the bank.

ST

BEN

The<n> I could fall in love with you, because the<n> I would have a purpose: to clean you up. And that, THA<T>… would prove that I’m worth something.

TTD

BEN

Entonces, podría enamorarme de ti, porque, entonces, tendría un buen motivo para limpiarte, y eso, E<S>O… demostraría que sirvo para algo.

TTS

BEN

creo que me enamoraría de ti

*

porque tendría un objetivo: / limpiarte toda.

*

Y eso…

*

demostraría que valgo algo.

Example 1. Consonant lengthening. Leaving Las Vegas (Cazès et al. 1995)

As can be seen in example 1, Ben tends to lengthen consonant sounds (in angle brackets), especially in word-end position. Unlike the lengthening of vowel sounds, which is also common in unaffected speech, this misarticulation is almost exclusive of PUIs (Lester and Skousen 1974). The dubbed version of the film has adapted this feature (in the sense of Corrius and Zabalbeascoa 2011, 8) only in the most marked of the three occurrences, probably to achieve lip-sync with the exaggerated mouth movements of the actor. Given the difficulty –and often reluctance– of rendering phonetic features in writing, the consonant lengthening has been neutralized in the subtitles and replaced by an ellipsis.

Neutralisation, however, is not the only option implemented by subtitlers dealing with a phonetic DIS marker, as shown in example 2, from Bad Boys II (Bruckheimer and Bay 2003). Detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey uncover a drug-smuggling operation and decide to pay a visit to Captain Howard to tell him about their discovery. Marcus has accidentally ingested ecstasy during their mission and is visibly affected. When they arrive, he greets the Captain.

ST

MARCUS

Hell<o>, cap-tiown. [captain]

TTD

MARCUS

Hol<a>… capi-ti<e>un! [capitán]

TTS

MARCUS

Hola…

*

“capitiáun”. [capitán]

Example 2. Sound interjection. Bad Boys II (Bruckheimer and Bay 2003)

Instead of addressing his superior as captain, pronounced /'kæptɪn/, Marcus pauses after the first syllable and interjects two vowel sounds in the second, which could be approximately transcribed as cap-tiown [kæp tɪ'oʊn]. Whereas both Mike and the audience are already aware of Marcus as CUI, Captain Howard is not, and they do not want him to find out, so the exaggerated pronunciation has a comical effect in the scene. Perhaps this is why both translated versions adapt the DIS marker by recreating the anomaly with the Spanish word for captain, that is, capitán. The non-standard spelling is highlighted in the subtitles through the use of quotation marks. Sound lengthening, as in the first example, is not transcribed as such but could be considered somehow implicit in the ellipsis.

4.2. Morphological markers

As CUIs feel less inhibited, they are also prone to experiment and be creative with language. On the morphological level, this disposition takes the form of neologistic or irregular practices in the formation and inflexion of words. In A Few Best Men (Barnard et al. 2011), Barbara snorts cocaine and drinks too much alcohol during her daughter’s wedding, which results in her misbehaving during most of the ceremony. At one point, she approaches her new son-in-law (example 3).

ST

BARBARA

You are not a real member of this family until you have macarenaed with your mother-in-law.

TTD

BARBARA

No serás un verdadero miembro de esta familia hasta que macarenees con tu suegra.

You won’t be a real member of this family until you macarena with your mother-in-law.

TTS

BARBARA

No serás miembro de esta familia

You won’t be a member of this family

*

hasta que bailes la Macarena / con tu suegra.

until you dance the Macarena / with your mother-in-law.

Example 3. Neologistic derivation. A Few Best Men (Barnard et al. 2011)

By inflecting the Spanish proper noun Macarena, famously known for the homonymous song, as if it were a verb, Barbara creates a neologism with a precise meaning: dancing to the song ‘Macarena’. The same is done in the dubbed version, where becomes the verb macarenear and is conjugated accordingly. Remarkably, the subtitler opts for a longer, more conventional solution: the neologism is replaced by its literal meaning, dancing the Macarena.

Neologistic strategies, however, can also lead —and often do— to ill-formed words. In the following example from Billy Madison (Simonds and Davis 1995), Billy is drunk and begins to chase a man-size imaginary penguin, who seems to flee in terror. Eventually, he corners the penguin (example 4).

ST

BILLY

All the people at the zoo are very nice, penguin. They’ll treat you real respectable-like.

TTD

BILLY

Todos los que trabajan en el zoo son buena gente, pingüino. Ya verás como te tratan de maravilla.

All those who work at the zoo are good people, penguin. You’ll see that they’ll treat you wonderfully.

TTS

BILLY

La gente del zoo es muy maja, pingüino.

The people at the zoo are very nice, penguin.

*

Te van a cuidar como que muy bien.

They’re going to treat you very goodish.

Example 4. Suffix substitution. Billy Madison (Simonds and Davis 1995)

Besides not being very reassuring, the word respectable-like is grammatically ill-formed. It results from adding the suffix -like, which can only be applied to nouns, to the adjective respectable. Most likely, the character intended to use the manner adverb respectably but inadvertently substituted the suffix -ly by -like. Any online search of the word respectable-like refers directly to this film and this particular scene, so its use is distinctly unique. As can be seen in the table, the marker is neutralised in the dubbed version through the use of a conventional adverb phrase: de maravilla (wonderfully). On the other hand, even though the subtitles are grammatically correct, they resort to the colloquial phrase como que to render the unreliability of the speaker.

4.3. Lexical-semantic markers

Lexical selection is also affected by intoxication. PUIs of sedatives, such as alcohol, or similar substances often express themselves vaguely and have trouble choosing the right words for what they want to convey. This is due both to their hampered thinking and their warped perception and cognition (American Psychiatric Association 1994). In example 5, from Arthur (Greenhut and Gordon 1981), the drunk antihero wants to compliment one of his wedding guests for the hat she is wearing, but cannot quite find the word for that piece of clothing.

Speech pathologists refer to this phenomenon as anomia (Bloodstein 1979: 372). Even though it is usually a symptom of aphasia and other organic mental disorders, it also may appear in PUIs, as in example 5.

ST

ARTHUR

I wonder— could you tell me where the wedding party is?

OLD LADY

Right over there, in that room.

ARTHUR

Oh, thank you very much. You’ve got a lovely uh… hat! Hat. It’s called a hat.

TTD

ARTHUR

Ah, gracias. Muy amable. Lleva usted un precioso sombrero. ¡Anda! Si no es un sombrero, es una pajarera.

Oh, thank you. That’s very kind of you. You’re wearing a beautiful… hat. OOPS! It’s not a hat, it’s an aviary.

TTS

ARTHUR

Muchas gracias. Tiene un bonito…

Thank you very much. You have a beautiful…

*

…¡sombrero! Sombrero. / Se llama un sombrero.

…hat! Hat. / It’s called a hat.

Example 5: Anomia. Arthur (Greenhut and Gordon 1981)

The struggle to find the right word is rendered literally in the subtitles —maybe too literally, as the second subtitle seems like an unnatural word-for-word translation. By contrast, the dubbed version turns anomia into quite a different phenomenon. Arthur finds the word sombrero (hat) without much difficulty, but immediately realises his apparent mistake and corrects himself: ‘Oops! It’s not a hat, it’s an aviary’.

One explanation for this absurd comment may be the similarity between the Spanish word for aviary, pajarera, and the type of hat the lady is wearing, which is a pamela (picture hat). In that case, the problem would be the signifier, as the CUI would be able to recognise the object, despite misnaming it. Another possibility would be that Arthur’s perception is so heavily under the influence that he cannot tell whether the lady is wearing a hat or an aviary, thus resorting to agnosia (see Ayd Jr. 2000, 16) and, even worse, his warped cognition leads him to believe that the latter is a plausible option (see Parra López 2014: 34-5 for further information).

Another lexical-semantic marker of DIS can be what in psychology and psychiatry is known as clanging or clang association: ‘Speech in which sounds, rather than meaningful conceptual relationships, govern word choice’ (Ayd Jr. 2000: 191). This is illustrated in example 6.

ST

PENNY LANE

You know that I’m retired. I’ve always been. I’m retired, and I’m tired.

TTD

PENNY LANE

Sabes que estoy retirada. Lo he estado siempre. Estoy retirada y tirada.

You know that I’m retired. I’ve always been. I’m retired and I’m lying.

TTS

PENNY LANE

Ya lo sabes. / Estoy retirada.

You know already. / I’m retired.

*

Lo he estado siempre. / Estoy retirada y tirada.

I’ve always been. / I’m retired and I’m lying.

Example 6. Clang association. Almost Famous (Bryce et al. 2000)

Penny Lane has ingested a mixture of methaqualone (‘quaaludes’) and alcohol and is clearly a CUI, to the point that her speech is not guided by the logical relations between the ideas, but by the sonority of the words retired and tired, which are paronyms. In this case, the phenomenon could also be considered a simple pun, with the peculiarity that Penny can barely stand and her choice of words seems rather unconscious. Interestingly, the two Spanish versions choose to preserve the association, translating tired as tirada (lying). Thus, the similarity between the words retirada and tirada has been prioritised in the translation over the literal meaning of tired, that is, cansada.

4.4. Syntactic markers

This category includes various phenomena, such as word omissions, lack of agreement, anacolutha, and other syntactic ungrammaticalities. In the following conversation from The Big Lebowski (Coen and Coen 1998), the CUI has been arrested and taken to the police station after being found running down the street under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance. Unfortunately for him, the effects still linger and his response to the officer’s accusations, far from exculpating him, are further incriminating.

ST

POLICE OFFICER

Mr Treehorn said he had to eject you from his garden party. That you were drunk and abusive.

LEBOWSKI

Mr Treehorn treats objects like women, man!

TTD

LEBOWSKI

El Sr. Treehorn trata a los objetos como si fueran mujeres, tío.

Mr Treehorn treats objects as if they were women, man.

TTS

LEBOWSKI

El Sr. Treehorn trata los objetos / como a mujeres, tío.

Mr Treehorn treats objects / like women, man.

Example 7. Word interchange. The Big Lebowski (Coen and Coen 1998)

Lebowski accidentally interchanges the elements of the comparison, conveying the exact opposite of what he meant. A simple literal translation of the lapsus linguae has sufficed to maintain the marker and its humorous effect in both Spanish versions.

Example 8 is a sequence from Taking Woodstock (Costas et al. 2009), a film about the historic festival that took place in 1969 in White Lake. Elliot, one of the organisers, is talking to two hippies he has just met beside their classic VW van. Although the audience cannot know whether they are CUIs during the conversation, they are in possession of LSD and seem to use it regularly, which would explain their eccentric style of speaking.

ST

ELLIOT

I’m from here.

HIPPIE 1

You’re from here, man.

HIPPIE 2

That’s so cool.

ELLIOT

I guess so.

HIPPIE 1

Man, you’re… amazingly from here.

TTD

HIPPIE 1

Tío, eres impresionantemente de aquí.

Man, you’re… amazingly from here

TTS

HIPPIE 1

Tío, eres impresionantemente de aquí.

Man, you’re… amazingly from here

Example 8. Anomalous modification. Taking Woodstock (Costas et al. 2009)

The use of amazingly in this example probably strikes the viewer as rather peculiar, because it is used as a degree adverb of the prepositional phrase from here, which seems to function as a non-gradable adverb. If we were to modify from here with any other degree adverb, the resulting sentence is likely to sound odd too: very from here, too from here, and so on. The conventional use of amazingly in this context would be as a manner adverb modifying the whole sentence, in which case it would have to precede or follow the rest of the constituents: ‘Amazingly, you’re from here’ or ‘You’re from here, amazingly’.

Both Spanish versions of this scene have opted for the adverb impresionantemente in the same position and for the same purpose, thus preserving the syntactical DIS marker. In fact, both versions are nearly identical throughout the scene, which suggests that the subtitles may have been made from the translation for dubbing, as is often the case in the industry (Ferrer Simó 2012: 166). As straightforward as the adopted solution may seem, it is important to keep in mind that other options are always available. This is evidenced in the French dubbed version of the film, in example 9, where the DIS marker is nowhere to be found.

TTS

HIPPIE 1

Non, moi je trouve que c’est prodigieux de pouvoir être d’ici.

No, I think it’s prodigious that you can be from here.

 

Example 9. Neutralised French translation. Taking Woodstock (Costas et al. 2009)

4.5. Pragmatic markers

Perhaps somewhat more subtle than some of the previous categories, pragmatic markers consist, mainly, in confusions and mistakes related to speech acts, conversational maxims, relevance, politeness, and so on. In the western Blazing Saddles (Hertzberg and Brooks 1974), Bart, the recently elected sheriff, takes up his office, where he meets Jim ‘The Waco Kid’, who has been arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Bart offers Jim some food, but he rejects it and immediately grabs a hidden bottle with two fingers of whisky, which he empties in the blink of an eye. Shocked by his heavy drinking, Bart says the following (example 10).

ST

BART

A man drink like that and he don’t eat, he is going to die.

JIM

When?

TTD

BART

Si un hombre bebe así y no come, acabará por morir.

If a man drinks like that and he doesn’t eat, he’ll end up dying.

JIM

¿Cuándo?

When?

TTS

BART

Un hombre que bebe así / y no come, se va a morir.

A man who drinks like that / and doesn’t eat is going to die.

JIM

¿Cuándo?

When?

Example 10. Misinterpretation of speech acts. Blazing Saddles (Hertzberg and Brooks 1974)

Jim’s answer to Bart’s comment is absurd and unexpected, because he blatantly misinterprets the sheriff’s utterance. With his locutionary act (Austin 1962; Searle 1969), Bart is advising Jim either 1) not to drink that much or 2) if he intends to keep drinking that much, to eat something at least. However, Jim does not interpret the illocutionary act as a piece of advice, but believes that the sheriff is sharing with him his apparently omniscient knowledge. For this reason, his perlocutionary act is not to stop drinking, or to comment on the advice he has just received, but to enquire about his possible death, which he assumes without much worry.

Another example of pragmatic marker would be the one found in the following excerpt from the recent remake of Arthur (Bender et al. 2011). The inveterate drunkard arrives at his lover’s house in the middle of the night and rings the bell. Unexpectedly, her father opens the door.

ST

ARTHUR

Hello, Naomi’s dad. Is your daughter here? Her name is Naomi. Just to clear up any confusion.

TTD

ARTHUR

Hola, padre de Naomi. ¿Está su hija? Se llama Naomi. Para que no haya confusiones.

Hello, Naomi’s dad. Is your daughter here? Her name is Naomi. Just so there isn’t any confusion.

TTS

ARTHUR

Hola, padre de Naomi.

Hello, Naomi’s dad.

*

¿Está su hija?

Is your daughter here?

*

Se llama Naomi. / Para que no haya confusiones.

Her name is Naomi. / Just so there isn’t any confusion.

Example 11. Lack of relevance: overexplanation. Arthur (Bender et al. 2011)

Being a CUI, Arthur is not fully aware of the implications of what he is saying. The fact that he addresses the man as ‘Naomi’s dad’ relies on the presupposition that 1) he has a daughter and 2) her name is Naomi (and not Martha, for example), so the subsequent clarification is not relevant (Wilson and Sperber 2004). Both the dubbed and the subtitled versions of the film (again identical, as in previous examples) maintain the overexplanation without special difficulty.

4.6. Conversational markers

CUIs usually perform badly in conversation; they tend to disregard turn-taking and topic-establishing conventions and to ignore their interlocutor’s turns (Bigham 2002; Weil and Zinberg 1969). In example 12, from the film 54 (Deutchman et al. 1998), the owner of the famous disco Studio 54, Steve Rubell, is lying on his bed surrounded by pills and dollar notes while trying to talk one of his employees into having sex with him.

ST

STEVE

You’re from Iowa or something, right?

GREG

New Jersey.

STEVE

Right. And now you’re rubbing elbows with the most influential people on the planet. Not bad for a kid from, uh— somewhere.

GREG

New Jersey. Thanks.

Example 12. Lack of acknowledgement. 54 (Deutchman et al. 1998)

As can be derived from the excerpt, Steve does not seem to be paying attention to his interlocutor. In fact, he does not seem at all interested in what Greg has to say. He is just pretending to have a conversation with him, instead of the monologue he is actually delivering, to keep Greg in the bedroom with him.

But even if he paid attention, his CUI condition definitely plays a role in the lapse, fictionally portraying an impairment that, in the case of alcohol, has been proven in both PUIs’ attention (see Steele and Josephs 1990; Wallgren and Barry 1970) and short-term memory (see Kalin 1964; Maylor and Rabbitt 1987; Miller and Dolan 1974; Parker et al. 1974; Ryback, Weinert, and Fozard 1970).

Unfortunately, example 12 is from the extended version of the film, which was not available in Spain, so there are no official translations to compare it with. Nonetheless, the example does not appear especially problematic for translation, as a literal rendering would easily preserve the DIS marker.

4.7. Paralinguistic markers

As mentioned at the beginning of section 4, DIS may also affect voice and speech fluency. Going back to Blazing Saddles, there is another scene in which Bart is smoking a joint and offers Jim to take a draw. Jim accepts the offer and, as soon as he exhales and starts to speak, his voice becomes ridiculously high-pitched. After two utterances, it returns gradually to its normal pitch, as the effect of the drug wears off. This is a clear example of how DIS markers can differ from real-life symptoms of substance use, as there is no scientific evidence of cannabis increasing voice fundamental frequency, the acoustic correlate of perceived pitch (Chin and Pisoni 1997).

Jim’s farcical high pitch is not reflected in the subtitles, probably because it can be perceived in the ST dialogue track, but had to be dealt with somehow in dubbing. Interestingly, the voice actor does not maintain the pitch fluctuation, but neither does he neutralise the DIS marker. Instead, he shouts, introducing a fluctuation of loudness that was not in the ST.

ST

JIM

↑ Listen, Bart! ↑ I want you to do me a favour. →

TTD

JIM

¡ESCUCHA, BART! Quiero que me hagas un favor.

TTS

JIM

Escucha, Bart. / Quiero que me hagas un favor.

Example 13. Pitch fluctuation. Blazing Saddles (Hertzberg and Brooks 1974)

Another paralinguistic DIS marker is fluency, which can be judged by the ‘smoothness and continuity’ of speech (Bloodstein 1979, 7). In the following example from In Bruges (Broadbent et al. 2008), Ray has just sniffed one gram of coke and feels restless and overstimulated. When his partner, Ken, asks him about a date, Ray responds with a monologue.

ST

KEN

How’d your date go?

RAY

My date involved two instances of extreme violence. One instance of her hand on my cock and my finger up her thing, which lasted all too briefly. Isn’t that always the way? One instance of me stealing five grams of her very-high-quality cocaine, and one instance of me blinding a poofy little skinhead. So, all in all, my evening pretty much balanced out fine.

64 w

360 c

15 s

KEN

You got five grams of coke?

RAY

No, four grams on me and one gram in me, which is why my heart is going like the clappers, as if I’m about to have a heart attack. So if I collapse any minute now, please remember to tell the doctors that it might have something to do with the coke.

52 w

249 c

7.5 s

Example 14. Pressure of speech in the ST. In Bruges (Broadbent et al. 2008)

The scientific term (in PUIs) for this is pressure of speech, which consists of ‘speech that is increased in amount, accelerated, and difficult or impossible to interrupt’ (Valciukas 1995: 276). In fact, Ray talks so fast that his speech is difficult not only to interrupt but even to understand. In his first turn, he utters 64 words (a total of 360 characters) in 15 s, and in his next, 52 in barely 7.5 s. This gives an increased speaking rate of 256 wpm and 416 wpm, respectively, way over the average conversation rate of 150 wpm (National Center for Voice and Speech 2011). Example 15 shows both translated versions.

TTD

KEN

¿Qué tal tu cita?

RAY

Mi cita incluyó dos episodios violentos, uno con su mano en mi polla y mi dedo en su cosa, aunque demasiado breve. Como siempre. Y el otro caso robándole cinco gramos de su cocaína de calidad y dejar ciego a un marica skinhead. Así que, en general, la velada no me ha ido tan mal.

55 w

280 c

15 s

KEN

¿Llevas cinco gramos?

RAY

Cuatro encima y uno dentro, por eso voy a cien y está a punto de darme un ataque cardíaco. Así que, si me derrumbo, recuerda decirles a los médicos que podría estar relacionado con la coca.

36 w

189 c

7,5 s

TTS

KEN

¿Qué tal tu cita?

RAY

Mi cita incluyó dos episodios violentos,

* [40 c / 2.04 s]

uno con su mano en mi polla / y mi dedo en su cosa,

* [48 c / 1.92 s]

aunque demasiado breve. Como siempre.

* [37 c / 2.60 s]

Otro robándole cinco gramos / de su cocaína de calidad

* [51 c / 3.12 s]

y otro dejando ciego a un marica skinhead.

* [42 c / 2.00 s]

Así que, en general, / la velada no me ha ido tan mal.

   [51 c / 3.00 s]

56 w

269 c

14.68 s

KEN

¿Llevas cinco gramos?

RAY

Cuatro encima y uno dentro,

* [27 c / 1.56 s]

por eso voy a cien y está a punto

* [33 c / 1.20 s]

de darme un ataque cardíaco.

* [28 c / 1.16 s]

Si me derrumbo, / recuerda decirles a los médicos

* [46 c / 2.04 s]

que podría ser la coca.

   [23 c / 1.50 s]

33 w

157 c

7.46 s

Example 15. Pressure of speech in the TT. In Bruges (Broadbent et al. 2008)

It is not surprising to verify that the word rate in the subtitles is slightly lower in the first turn (229 wpm) and significantly lower in the second (266 wpm), when Ray’s speech accelerates. This is due to reading speed limitations inherent to the subtitling process, which the subtitler tried to comply with by keeping the dialogue between 18 and 21 cps (characters per second). A literal rendering of the ST dialogue would have required an impossible reading speed of over 30 cps.

What is surprising, though, is to see that the speaking rates in the dubbed version are closer to the ones in the subtitles than to those of the ST: 220 wpm for the first turn and 288 wpm for the second. Taking into account the mode difference, one could have presumed the exact opposite. Even looking at the character count, as it could be argued that words in Spanish tend to be longer than in English, the difference is notable. As there is no such thing as a reading limitation in dubbing, this finding could be due to a mere convention or to the practical and technical difficulties of achieving lip-synch at such high speaking rates.

In any case, it seems clear that both translated versions are considerably more accessible to viewers than the ST since they reduce dialogue content. As a result, they partially dilute the overwhelming effect of fluency as a DIS marker for the sake of intelligibility.

5. Conclusions

Drugs and alcohol are much more present in cinema than they may appear, as are their manifestations. Although filmmakers have different options at their disposal for portraying a CUI, verbal transposition is a common choice due to its versatility. As a fictional representation of real speech disorders, it relies on a whole range of scripted linguistic and paralinguistic markers to evoke the alteration: phonetic, morphological, lexical-semantic, syntactic, pragmatic, and conversational. These DIS (or L3) markers can be used both in the ST and the TT within a dialogue that is otherwise in the L1/L2 and in combination with other verbal and non-verbal elements.

The included examples and their translations, far from being representative of any underlying norm in the industry, are just illustrative of the diverse resources that can be used in cinema and some of the solutions that have been found in dubbing and subtitling. As can be observed throughout the article, not all types of markers entail the same degree of difficulty for translators. For instance, whereas pragmatic and conversational DIS markers can be easily maintained through a literal rendering, other types require more creativity, such as lexical-semantic markers, or are widely neutralized, as tends to happen with morphological features. There are also differences in the way both translation modes deal with DIS markers, which is especially prominent at the phonetic and paralinguistic levels.

Despite its limitations, this paper intends to be a stepping-stone towards a theoretical and systematic description of DIS that would certainly benefit audiovisual translators: firstly, by raising awareness of the phenomenon and its potential manifestations in translation, and secondly, by providing them with a reliable source to justify challenging solutions. Due to space restrictions, it has not been possible to make an in-depth analysis of the relationship between the verbal component and the remaining semiotic modes of the audiovisual text, such as image, sound, music, or editing (Pérez-González 2014; Stöckl 2004). However, it is undeniable that these modes play an essential role in the representation of the influence and will be addressed in future publications.

References

Abercrombie, David (1967) Elements of general phonetics, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., Washington DC, American Psychiatric Association.

Andrews, Moya L., W. Miles Cox, and Raymond G. Smith (1977) “Effects of alcohol on the speech of non-alcoholics”, Central States Speech Journal 28, no. 2: 140-3. http://doi.org/10.1080/10510977709367933

Austin, John L. (1962) How to do things with words, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Ayd Jr., Frank J. (2000) Lexicon of psychiatry, neurology and the neurosciences (2nd ed.), Philadelphia, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Bigham, Douglas S. (2002) “Dude, What Was I Talking about?” A New Sociolinguistic Framework for Marijuana-Intoxicated Speech,” Texas Linguistics Forum 45: 11–21. doi:10.1.1.522.4758.

Bleichenbacher, Lukas (2008) Multilingualism in the movies: Hollywood characters and their language choices, Tübingen, Francke.

Bloodstein, Oliver (1979) Speech pathology: An introduction, Boston, Houghton Mifflin.

Chin, Steven B., and David B. Pisoni (1997) Alcohol and speech, San Diego (CA), Academic Press.

Corrius, Montse, and Patrick Zabalbeascoa (2011) “Language variation in source texts and their translations: The case of L3 in film translation”, Target: International Journal of Translation Studies 23, no. 1: 113-30. http://doi.org/10.1075/target.23.1.07zab

Dal Cin, Sonya, Keilah A. Worth, Madeline A. Dalton, and James D. Sargent (2008) “Youth exposure to alcohol use and brand appearances in popular contemporary movies”, Addiction 103, no. 12: 1925-32. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02304.x

Deleuze, Gilles (1994) “He Stuttered” in Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, Constantin V. Boundas and Dorothea Olkowski (eds), New York and London, Routledge: 23-9.

Everett, Sherry A., Rae L. Schnuth, and Joanne L. Tribble (1998) “Tobacco and alcohol use in top-grossing American films”, Journal of Community Health 23, no. 4: 317-24. http://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018727606500

Ferrer Simó, María (2012) “La traducción audiovisual: un recorrido por quince años en la profesión” in Reflexiones sobre la traducción audiovisual: tres espectros, tres momentos, Juan José Martínez Sierra (ed.), Valencia, Universitat de València: 161-77.

Fowler, Roger (2000) “Orality and the theory of mode in advertisements” in Changing landscapes in language and language pedagogy: Text, orality and voice, Marie-Noëlle Guillot and Marie-Madeleine Kenning (eds), London, CILT Publications: 26-39.

Goldstein, Adam O., Rachel A. Sobel, and Glen R. Newman (1999) “Tobacco and acohol use in G-rated children’s animated films”, Journal of the American Medical Association 281, no. 12: 1131-6. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.281.12.1131

Gottschalk, Louis A., Goldine C. Gleser, and Kayla J. Springer (1963) “Three hostility scales applicable to verbal samples”, Archives of General Psychiatry 9, no. 3: 254-79.

Guillot, Marie-Noëlle (2012) “Stylisation and representation in subtitles: can less be more?”, Perspectives: Studies in Translation Theory and Practice 20, no. 4: 479-94. http://doi.org/10.1080/0907676X.2012.695379

Hollien, Harry, Gea DeJong, and Camilo A. Martin (1998) “Production of intoxication states by actors: Perception by lay listeners”, Journal of Forensic Sciences 43, no. 6: 1153-62.

Kalin, Rudolf (1964) “Effect of alcohol on memory”, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 69, 635-41.

Kozloff, Sarah (2000) Overhearing film dialogue, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Lester, L., and Skousen, R. (1974) “The phonology of drunkenness” in Papers from the Parasession on Natural Phonology, Anthony Bruck, Robert A. Fox, and Michael W. Lagaly (eds), Chicago, Chicago Linguistics Society: 233-9.

Lyons, John (1977) Semantics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Markert, John (2013) Hooked in film: Substance abuse on the big screen, Lanham (MD), Scarecrow Press.

Maylor, Elizabeth A., and Patrick Rabbitt (1987) “Effect of alcohol on rate of forgetting”, Psychopharmacology 91, no. 2: 230-5.

Miller, Loren L., and Michael P. Dolan (1974) “Effects of alcohol on short term memory as measured by a guessing technique”, Psychopharmacology 35, no. 4: 353-64.

National Center for Voice and Speech (2011) “Voice Qualities”,

URL: http://www.ncvs.org/ncvs/tutorials/voiceprod/tutorial/quality.html (accessed 20 July 2018)

Parker, Elizabeth S., Ronald L. Alkana, Isabel M. Birnbaum, Joellen T. Hartley, and Ernest P. Noble (1974) “Alcohol and the disruption of cognitive processes”, Archives of General Psychiatry 31, no. 6: 824-8.

Parra López, Guillermo (2014) “El lenguaje alterado y su traducción: miedo y asco entre letras” [Master’s degree thesis], Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), Barcelona, URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10230/22797 (accessed 7 May 2015).

Parra López, Guillermo (2016) “Disorderly speech and its translation: Fear and loathing among letters” in Achieving consilience: Translation theories and practice, Margherita Dore (ed.), Cambridge, Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 82-107.

Pérez-González, Luis (2014) “Multimodality in translation studies: Theoretical and methodological perspectives” in A companion to translation studies, Sandra Bermann and Catherine Porter (eds), Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell: 119-31.

Ryback, Ralph S., Jane Weinert, and James L. Fozard (1970) “Disruption of short-term memory in man following consumption of ethanol”, Psychonomic Science 20, no. 6: 353-4.

Scherer, Klaus R. (2003) “Vocal communication of emotion: A review of research paradigms”, Speech Communication 40, no. 1-2: 227-56.

Searle, John R. (1969) Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Sobell, L. C., and M. B. Sobell (1972) “Effects of Alcohol on the Speech of Alcoholics”, Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 15: 861–68.

Steele, Claude M., and Robert A. Josephs (1990) “Alcohol myopia: Its prized and dangerous effects”, American Psychologist 45, no. 8: 921-33.

Sternberg, Meir (1981) “Polylingualism as reality and translation as mimesis”, Poetics Today 2, no. 4: 221-39. http://doi.org/10.2307/1772500

Stöckl, Hartmut (2004) “In between modes: Language and image in printed media” in Perspectives on multimodality, Eija Ventola, Cassily Charles, and Martin Kaltenbacher (eds), Amsterdam and Philadelphia, John Benjamins: 9-30.

Thompson, Kimberly M., and Fumie Yokota (2001) “Depiction of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances in G-rated animated feature films”, Pediatrics 107, no. 6, 1369-74. http://doi.org/10.1542/peds.107.6.1369

Trojan, F., and K. Kryspin-Exner (1968) “The Decay of Articulation under the Influence of Alcohol and Paraldehyde”, Folia Phoniatrica (Basel) 20, no. 4: 217–38. doi:10.1159/000263201.

Valciukas, José A. (1995) Forensic neuropsychology: Conceptual foundations and clinical practice, London and New York, The Haworth Press.

Wallgren, Henrik, and Herbert Barry (1970) Actions of alcohol, Amsterdam, Elsevier.

Weil, Andrew T., and Norman E. Zinberg (1969) “Acute Effects of Marihuana on Speech”, Nature 222, no. 5192: 434–37. doi:10.1038/222434a0.

Wilson, Chris R., and Zacharia Persson (2015) “The Drunk Series”, URL: http://www.drunkseries.com/ (accessed 14 March 2017)

Wilson, Deirdre, and Dan Sperber (2004) “Relevance theory” in The Handbook of Pragmatics, Laurence R. Horn and Gregory L. Ward (eds), Oxford, Blackwell.

Zabalbeascoa, Patrick (2012) “Translating heterolingual audiovisual humor: Beyond the blinkers of traditional thinking” in The limits of literary translation: Expanding frontiers in Iberian languages, Javier Muñoz-Basols, Catarina Fouto, Laura Soler González, and Tyler Fisher (eds), Kassel, Reichenberger: 317-338.

----, and Elena Voellmer (2015) “La traducción de textos audiovisuales polilingües: Tipos de soluciones en los doblajes español y alemán” in Lingüística mediática y traducción audiovisual: Estudios comparativos español-alemán, Nadine Rentel, Ursula Reutner, and Ramona Schröpf (eds), Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang: 71-92.

----, and Montse Corrius (in press) “Conversation as a unit of translational and film analysis. AV samples and databases of L3 multilingualism”, MonTi: Monografías de Traducción e Interpretación extra 4.

Zdenek, Sean (2015) Reading sounds: Closed-captioned media and popular culture, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Filmography

Barnard, Antonia, Gary Hamilton, Laurence Malkin, Share Stallings (prods), and Stephan Elliott (dir) (2011) A few best men (Una boda de muerte) [Motion Picture], Australia and United Kingdom, Screen Australia, Quickfire Films, Screen NSW, Parabolic Pictures, Stable Way Entertainment.

Bender, Chris, Larry Brezner, Kevin McCormick, Michael Tadross (prods), and Jason Winer (dir) (2011) Arthur [Motion Picture], United States, Warner Bros., MBST Entertainment, BenderSpink, K/O Camera Toys, Langley Park Productions.

Broadbent, Graham, Peter Czernin, Ronaldo Vasconcellos (prods), and Martin McDonagh (dir) (2008) In Bruges [Motion Picture], United Kingdom and United States, Blueprint Pictures, Focus Features, Scion Films, Film4, and Twins Financing.

Bruckheimer, Jerry (prod), and Michael Bay (dir) (2003) Bad Boys II (Dos policías rebeldes dos) [Motion Picture], United States, Columbia Pictures Corporation and Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

Bryce, Ian, Cameron Crowe (prods), and Cameron Crowe (dir) (2000) Almost famous (Casi famosos) [Motion Picture], United States: Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks, and Vinyl Films.

Cazès, Lila, Marc S. Fischer, Annie Stewart (prods), and Mike Figgis (dir) (1995) Leaving Las Vegas [Motion Picture], United States, United Artists and Lumiere Pictures.

Coen, Joel, and Ethan Coen (1998) The big Lebowski (El gran Lebowski) [Motion Picture], United States, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, and Working Title Films.

Costas, Celia, Ang Lee, James Schamus (prods), and Ang Lee (dir) (2009) Taking Woodstock (Destino: Woodstock) [Motion Picture], United States, Focus Features.

Deutchman, I., Gladstein, R. N., Hall, D., Lulick, M. (prods), and Christopher, M. (dir) (1998) 54 [Motion Picture], United States, Dollface, FilmColony, Miramax, and Redeemable Features.

Gerber, Bill, Richard Perello (prods), and Jay Chandrasekhar (dir) (2006) Beerfest (La fiesta de la cerveza. ¡Bebe hasta reventar!) [Motion Picture], United States, Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Gerber Pictures, Cataland Films, Broken Lizard Industries, and Adobe Pictures.

Greenhut, Robert (prod), and Steve Gordon (dir) (1981) Arthur (Arthur, el soltero de oro) [Motion Picture], United States, Orion Pictures and Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions.

Hertzberg, Michael (prod), and Mel Brooks (dir) (1974) Blazing Saddles (Sillas de montar calientes) [Motion Picture], United States, Crossbow Productions and Warner Bros.

Simonds, Robert (prod.), and Tamra Davis (dir) (1995) Billy Madison [Motion Picture], United States, Universal Pictures and Robert Simonds Productions.

About the author(s)

Guillermo Parra is a professional Spanish subtitler and translation teacher located in Barcelona. In recent years, he has taught graduate and postgraduate courses on translation at the Pompeu Fabra University, for which he received the UPF Social Council Award for Teaching Quality in 2015. Guillermo holds a PhD in Translation and Language Sciences for his thesis on the effects of alcohol and drugs on fictional dialogue and their representation in audiovisual translation. He regularly works for several clients from the audiovisual industry, including major VOD platforms and film festivals, and tries to make the most of this experience for his research in the field of audiovisual translation.

Email: [please login or register to view author's email address]

©inTRAlinea & Guillermo Parra López (2020).
"‘Mr Treehorn treats objects like women, man’: A map of drug-induced language variation in cinema and its translation"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: The Translation of Dialects in Multimedia IV
Edited by: Klaus Geyer & Margherita Dore
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2462

Go to top of page