formulae across languages: english greetings, leave-takings and good wishes in dubbed italian

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Formulae across languages: English greetings,leave-takings and good wishes in dubbed Italian


  • Formulae across languages: English greetings,leave-takings and good wishes in dubbed Italian


    University of Pisa, Italy

    1. Introduction

    The aim of this paper is to investigate the use of greetings, leave-takingsand good wishes in English film dialogue and in Italian dubbed language.We first intend to ascertain how much space such speech acts are grantedin film language and dubbing. Although these conversational routines (inthe sense of Firth 1972 and Coulmas 1981) are scarcely informative, theyplay in fact a paramount role in establishing a relational function withininterpersonal interactions. Also, we expect possible discrepancies to emergein the cross-linguistic mapping (cf., for instance, Verschueren 1981), dueto asymmetry in the respective repertoires of formulae (e. g. the Englishleave-taking formula cheers or the Italian greeting salve) and to asymmetryin the identification of relevant time spans (cf. good forms in English andtheir Italian counterparts).

    Our analysis focuses on a small corpus of nine recent American andBritish films dubbed into Italian and fully transcribed orthographically(see Section 4 of this chapter). In these films, language varies on differentdimensions: diatopically (British, American, Australian and Irish accents,as well as London accents), diachronically (contemporary films, romanticcomedies, dramatic films and costume dramas) and diastratically (fromupper to lower social classes). We also make reference to three Italian films,in order to compare original Italian film language with dubbed Italian.

    1 The research was carried out by all authors together. Paragraphs 1 and 6 were writtenjointly; Veronica Bonsignori wrote paragraphs 3, 4, 5.3, 5.4; Silvia Bruti wrote para-graphs 2, 5.2; Silvia Masi wrote paragraphs 2.1, 5, 5.1.



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    This chapter is organized as follows: we first introduce greetings, leave-takings and good wishes as conversational routines and discuss them inrelation to relevant literature on their forms and functions; this is also wherewe outline the main tenets of the classification we have used in our analysis.We then briefly present the role of conversational routines in film language,along with a more specific research question we ask in our paper. The nextsection introduces in some detail the corpus of films under investigation,and is followed by the discussion of the data and concluding remarks.

    2. Greetings, leave-takings and good wishesas conversational routines

    Conversational routines (cf. Firth 1972, Coulmas 1981 and Aijmer 1996)are defined as pre-fabricated linguistic units used in a well-known andgenerally accepted manner (Coulmas 1981: 1). Thus, in specific situa-tions, speakers make use of similar and sometimes identical expressions,which have proved to be functionally appropriate (Ferguson 1981, e. g.good morning, *good birthday vs. happy birthday, *good Christmas vs. merryChristmas). However, as Coulmas points out, competent language use isalways characterized by an equilibrium between the novel and the famil-iar (Coulmas 1981: 12). In other words, these routines are central inlinguistic action for different reasons: they perform an important socialfunction as they allow individuals to relate to others in an accepted man-ner, conforming to established rituals or ceremonial behaviour, but theyoften also enact a balance between convention and creativity (cf. Coulmas1981 for a comparison between conversational routines and idioms). Theuniversal nature of conversational routines has been acknowledged, al-though linguistic form is subject to cross-linguistic and cross-culturalchanges (Verschueren 1981: 134).

    Greetings, leave-takings and good wishes have been granted signifi-cant attention in the sociolinguistic literature (see Coulmas 1981; Laver1981; Eisenstein-Ebsworth et al. 1996; Hudson 1996 and Gramley andPtzold 2004). A recent review of relevant literature in Masi (2008) sug-gests that appropriate criteria to describe them could be the following:






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  • 25Formulae across languages

    1. their marginal vs. salient position within conversation (e. g. whetherthey appear in initial, central, or final position);

    2. their interactional reciprocity (i. e. symmetrical usage which may alsobe subverted);

    3. their fixedness of form (i. e. their more or less marked conformity toconvention, which helps conversational participants to identify therelational function of such expressions).

    Of these, the marginal-salient position has been the most important crite-rion for the selection and analysis of our data, since it can be viewed asespecially correlated with specific interactional (macro-)functions (see 2.1in this chapter).

    2.1 Greetings and leave-takings: A close-up

    From the vast array of expressions that can be included in the category ofconversational routines, for the purpose of our project we decided to re-tain the following extended set of more or less formulaic expressions (cf.Laver 1981; also see Masi 2008):

    greetings and leave-takings proper, i. e. expressions which have a salientposition, a conventional and fixed form and serve a politeness-relatedexpressive function, such as hello and good-bye;

    terms of direct address or vocatives (e. g. Sir, darling), often co-occur-ring with greetings or leave-takings proper, but which can also appearalone and can modify the degree of politeness of the speech act;

    utterances of phatic communion, that is, routine expressions of a lessfixed nature which are more flexible in their meanings and functions,e. g. inquiries about health, comments about the weather, etc. (cf. Laver1981; see also Coupland and Coupland 1992 and Coupland 2003 onsmall talk).

    These three types of expressions are often tightly intertwined in our dataand jointly contribute to the negotiation of social relationships betweenthe participants in conversations.

    Generally speaking, greetings and leave-taking formulae proper areused to open and close communication (phatic function), to express feel-ings and attitudes towards interlocutors (expressive function), and, more

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    specifically, to indicate the relationship between speaker and interlocutorin terms of power (superiority/inferiority) and solidarity (vicinity/remote-ness) (cf. Brown and Gilman 1960). A special type of greeting in our datais the introductory one (see Eisenstein-Ebsworth et al. 1996), which mayinvolve more or less ritualized exchanges with the specific function of al-lowing the parties to establish a connection for the first time.

    Terms of direct address, too, express and codify social meaning alongthe scalar dimensions of power and vicinity, and represent a crucial elementin the intersemiotic mapping exemplified by dubbing, as address systemsvary both cross-linguistically and within speech communities themselves(on relevant work on Italian in dubbed English films see for instance Pavesi1996 and Ulrych 1996; on vocatives in film subtitles see Bruti and Perego2005). Finally, what counts as utterances of phatic communion varies greatlyacross social groups and generations and, notably, across cultures (Couplandand Coupland 1992: 213). Utterances of phatic communion can performdifferent functions depending on their position. When they occur in theopening phase of an exchange they defuse the potential hostility of silence(e. g. talking about the weather and/or enquiries about health), and haveinitiatory and exploratory functions. When used in the closing phase theytypically bring about effects of mitigation (e. g. I must leave) and consolida-tion (e. g. See you next Saturday) of social relationships.

    In our paper, we use the following labels (letters in italics) to identifythe main categories of expressions we analyze:

    g > greetings proper, e. g. hi, hello, hey, good morning, etc.i > introductory formulae, e. g. nice to meet you, how do you do, pleasure,

    etc.v > vocatives, e. g. darling, Mr. President, etc. > leave-takings proper, e. g. good-bye, see you, take care, cheers, farewell,

    etc.p > more or less formulaic expressions of phatic communion, e. g. thank-

    ing, apologizing, promising, etc.; these also cover expressions such ashow are you, good to see you, as well as good wishes, e. g. good luck.

    The latter expressions are often ambiguous and can be attributed a fullyconventional, non-informational interpretation, or a transactional read-ing. In fact, this very indeterminacy is the key to their social utility (seeCoupland and Coupland 1992: 226). Crucially, their more or less com-mitted status, i. e. commitment to a speakers own factuality (Coupland




  • 27Formulae across languages

    and Coupland 1992: 213), is often a matter of on-the-ground negotia-tion by participants [] contingent on local sequential placement inparticular contextualized episodes and on the momentary salience of par-ticular interactional goals. This adds to the importance of the correlationof these linguistic expressions with sequential positioning in the classifica-tion of our data.

    Our analysis is organized on the basis of the five linguistic categorieswe have outlined, matched with the subsequent three functional para-meters (or macro-functions):

    I) O > Opening;II) I > Introduction (i. e. when speakers introduce themselves);III) C > Closing.

    The macro-functions of Opening and Introduction usually correlate withthe sequence initial position, whereas that of Closing typically appears atthe end of an exchange.

    Another important factor we have taken into consideration is the me-dium of communication:

    T > for telephone conversations (also radio programmes);W > for written letters, emails, etc.

    3. Conversational routines in film language

    The nature of film language as resembling or imitating spontaneous speechhas been recognized by most scholars working in the field of audiovisualtranslation (e. g. Chaume 2001a and 2004a; Pavesi 2006). In his discus-sion of oralidad prefabricada [prefabricated orality], Chaume (2004a: 169)explains that film language endeavours to attain a flavour of spontaneityby adopting certain features of spontaneous speech. An audiovisual text issubject to many limitations and constraints, such as the length of the text,the immediacy of the utterances and their linguistic relevance to the plot,and the various types of synchronization that have to be established. As aconsequence, not all of the typical traits that characterize oral language areused to the same extent in films. For instance, digressions, redundancies,



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    anacolutha and hyperbatons, although extremely frequent in spontaneousspeech, are usually avoided in film language as they would not complywith its constraints and could confuse the audience.

    The nature of conversational routines is ambivalent. On the one hand,they are socio-pragmatically relevant in establishing rapport, and failureto comply with them generates tension in interpersonal relations. On theother hand, they often tend to be scarcely informative. Besides establish-ing how much space conversational routines are granted in both originalfilm language and dubbed Italian, our more specific research question isthen to verify whether they represent keys to orality in the latter modality.

    4. The corpus

    For the purposes of this research we have selected and analyzed nine recentBritish and American films in which conversation plays a central role andlanguage varies along a large number of sociolinguistic dimensions2:

    [EP] The English Patient (1996), A. Minghella, USA[OL] Oscar and Lucinda (1997), G. Armstrong, UK/USA/Australia[SD] Sliding Doors (1998), P. Howitt, UK/USA[BJD] Bridget Joness Diary (2001), S. Maguire, UK[LA] Love Actually (2003), R. Curtis, UK/USA[GSH] Green Street Hooligans (2005), L. Alexander, UK/USA[MP] Match Point (2005), W. Allen, USA/UK/Luxembourg[BJ] Becoming Jane (2007), J. Jerrold, UK[ML] Music and Lyrics (2007), M. Lawrence, USA

    Our aim was to include several varieties of English in order to achieve awide picture of conversational routines across space and time. In the filmswe chose for the sample, the characters speak British, American or Aus-tralian English with different accents such as an Irish accent or a Londonaccent. The axis of temporal variation is fictitiously reconstructed in cer-tain costume dramas we included in the corpus (The English Patient, Oscarand Lucinda, Becoming Jane). In these films, the characters belong to dif-


    2 The films are presented in chronological order of release. In the discussion ofexamples they will be referred to by the capitalized initials in square brackets.

  • 29Formulae across languages

    ferent social classes, and variation of social status is reflected in the use ofa wider range of formulae in different contexts and communicative situa-tions, and in the participants involved. The more recent Match Point fo-cuses particularly on a portrayal of British upper and middle classes, whileGreen Street Hooligans deals with a completely different section of thediastratic dimension. The remaining films in the sample cover several so-cial categories and relationships. Love Actually is a case in point: the vari-ous narrative threads make it a suitable vehicle for representing an exten-sive array of social types and relationships.

    In order to better evaluate the findings obtained through an analysis oftranslated Italian in dubbing, we have also examined three Italian produc-tions, namely: Lultimo bacio (2001, G. Muccino), Ma che colpa abbiamonoi (2003, C. Verdone) and Io e Napoleone (2006, P. Virz). We chose filmswhose genres and settings can be considered comparable, at least to a cer-tain extent, with those of the films in the main corpus. Of course, a centralconcern was to find films which privilege conversation and include differ-ent kinds of social interactions3.

    5. Discussion of the data

    For the sake of illustration, we start with several examples of the applica-tion of the labels we used for analysis.


    Example (a)[MP]O-g x 2 Tom Evening all. Hello, Mum.O-g Chloe Hello.O-g + p Toms mother to Tom Hello, sweetie. Very nice to see you.

    3 Although the sample needs to be extended, the data we obtained enabled us to makea number of initial observations. Admittedly, the film Io e Napoleone represents afairly marked choice, especially in view of the diatopic variety of spoken Italian usedby most characters. The choice was motivated by our need to include a costumeproduction to enable comparison with the main corpus.

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    In Example (a), both Evening all and Hello, Mum are O-g (Opening-greet-ing), addressed to different interlocutors (signalled by x 2). In this case,the vocatives have not been considered separately, as they appear to befully integrated in the greeting formulae. A different case can be seen inExample (b), where the vocative is more prominent in that it precedes,and is prosodically separated from, the greeting expression (hence our useof Opening-vocative + greeting).

    Example (b)[SD]O-v + g James to Helen 1 Helen! Hello! []


    Example (c)[MP]I Tom Very nice to meet you.I Chris How do you do?

    Example (c) illustrates a typical exchange of reciprocal introductory for-mulae, for which we simply used the label for the corresponding macro-function (I). In other cases, though, the introductory nature of an interac-tion can be inferred from contextual information and composite sequencesof expressions, as is the case in Example (d).

    Example (d)[ML]I-g + p Rhonda Hi. Im sorry. Ive You were so great tonight.I-p Alex Weve met, havent we?

    In this example, the protagonists have already met during Alexs singingperformance without being formally introduced, which explains the ex-change. The introduction does not employ typical formulae for this func-tion (e. g. nice to meet you); rather, Rhondas turn consists of a greetingfollowed by evaluative comments with a phatic function (p stands for ut-terances of phatic communion), and Alex completes the exchange in thesame vein.


  • 31Formulae across languages


    Example (e)[SD](T) C-p + Gerry to Helen 1 [] look, IIll phone you back whener world

    war twelve has stopped for tea. Ok. Ok. Bye!

    In Example (e) above, the closing exchange takes place on the telephone(signalled by T) and the linguistic sequence itself is composed of expres-sions of phatic communication (a sort of promise) and a leave-taking for-mula proper (Bye).

    In Example (f ), on the other hand, the linguistic realization of theclosing is entrusted to a vocative, accompanied by the act of bowing.

    Example (f )[BJ]C-v Mr. Lefroy to Jane Madam. (leaves)

    Finally, in Example (g), we encounter once more a feature we consider tobe a leave-taking formula, although it is not always easy to discriminatebetween utterances of phatic communion with a closing function and leave-taking expressions proper. In fact, our list of leave-takings is quite large. Inparticular, we have included certain traditional expressions of phatic com-munion (please go to Section 2.1 in this chapter) as leave-takings (e. g. seeyou), due to their frozen identity and their frequency of occurrence at thevery end of interactions.

    Example (g)[GSH]C- Pete See you later, Ben!

    Ideally, a line between utterances of phatic communion and leave-takingsshould be drawn, depending on the degree of fixedness of an expression.Degree of fixedness can act as an index of grammaticalization status in thedevelopment from a still semantically-pragmatically informed periphras-tic expression to a more frozen formula devoid of semantic meaning andless specific in pragmatic function. However, clear-cut distinctions are, inactual fact, far from straightforward, since longer closing expressions alsofrequently appear as being highly conventionalized in their form-functionpair. In our analysis, we have included these longer expressions in the cat-

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    egory of leave-takings, e. g. (Ill) talk to you soon/tomorrow, or Ill see youlater/tomorrow. They are prominently used as one block (with minor ad-justments) at the very end of conversations (especially on the phone), wheretheir illocutionary force as promises is backgrounded and a more generalclosing function is promoted.

    The same rationale motivates our decision to include in the list ofleave-takings fixed or semi-fixed expressions containing motion verbs(I should go, Im off ), which make the intention of the speaker to leave thefloor explicit, as well as fairly ritualized expressions of good wishes beforeparting (take care). By contrast, other expressions of good wishes (goodluck) and thanking have been classified as belonging to the category ofphatic communion, since their association with the closing function/posi-tion is less constant and/or not overtly motivated by relevant lexical mate-rial. In other words, one typically wishes somebody to take care of them-selves before leaving, whereas one can wish somebody good luck any time.Motion verbs explicitly signal the intention to leave, whereas the samedoes not apply to thanking (though this act is often found at the very endof exchanges)4.

    While we do realize that some of the distinctions and classificationswe make in our research can be challenged and improved, which wehope to do in the future we believe that the set of categories outlinedhere represents a reasonable initial benchmark for analysis. Indeed, analy-sis has highlighted several interesting phenomena which deserve attentionand which will be discussed in what follows. The main trends we haveidentified cluster around both qualitative and quantitative types of asym-metry in the mapping of formulae in English and Italian.

    5.1 Qualitative asymmetry

    Our first examples illustrate differences in the temporal mapping of goodforms in the two languages, as they identify distinct time spans with corre-lated non-fully overlapping situational applicability:


    4 Constraints such as spatial economy and the pace of the film are likely to be respon-sible for reducing the length of closing routines.

  • 33Formulae across languages

    Example 1[MP]I-g + p Chris to Mrs Eastby Good afternoon. How are you?

    Buongiorno, signora.I-g Mrs Eastby Hello.


    In Example 1 good afternoon is used in English and buongiorno [good morn-ing] in Italian. This is due to a more precise distinction of the times ofthe day in English by comparison with Italian, where buongiorno is oftenextended beyond lunch time, alternating with buonasera [good evening] incertain regional varieties. In Italian, buon pomeriggio [good afternoon] ismuch more limited in use. It is also to be noticed that, in this example,the phatic expression how are you is substituted with a vocative in Italian(signora [Madam]), with how are you also being a less typical routine forIntroductory purposes than, for instance, nice to meet you or how do youdo. In Example 2 a similar instance of asymmetry applies to leave-tak-ings, in which the English good night is translated as buonasera [goodevening], because in Italian buona notte [good night] is used only beforegoing to bed.

    Example 2[MP]C- Chris to Samantha Good night.


    The next set of examples differ from the ones presented above in the sensethat there are more substantial and problematic divergences of form-func-tion pairs in the two languages, due to systemic lexical gaps. Thus, inExample 3 there is a loss of socio-pragmatic meaning in dubbing, becauseof the lack of suitable equivalents for the vocative mate. This is the case forall the other generic descriptors, e. g. guy, pal, dude, chap, babe, whosesecond occurrence in the original is translated via the substantivized qual-ity adjective bello [roughly, beautiful/beauty] in the Italian dub. Also, thetranslation of the polifunctional cheers is ambiguous, oscillating betweenthanking and Closing, and the repetition of the Italian ciao by itself neu-tralizes the effect of peer-to-peer male solidarity, which is in fact conveyedby the more overtly colloquial register of the English turn. The impact oflip-synch does not seem to be of much relevance here: although Gerrysface is momentarily in close-up while pronouncing cheers, the characters


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    face and mouth are hardly visible, as they are in close proximity to, andturned towards, the phone receiver.

    Example 3[SD](T) C- Gerry Ah, really, mate! No, what a drag! Oh no, yeah. Ok, yeah, sure!

    Sure, sure, yeah! yeah, Ill help you. Yeah, yeah! Cheers, mate!Cheers! Bye! (hangs up)Ah, davvero mi dici no, che fregatura! No! S, s! Certo,certo, s! S s! Ti aiuto io! S! S! Ciao bello! Ciao, ciao!

    In Example 4, the translation in the Italian dub for Take care of yourself ismissing altogether, while Take care, Allen is translated via a different ex-pression, i. e. Divertiti, Allen [Enjoy yourself ]. The Italian counterpart fortake care, i. e. abbi cura di te, would sound inappropriate in this contextgiven that it is more emotionally loaded and presupposes a longer ac-quaintance between interlocutors. Consequently, the choice of divertitiappears to be more in line with both typical Italian usage and the specificcontextual constraints.

    Example 4[ML]C- Sloan to Sophie Lets get together, ok?

    Sentiamoci qualche volta, no?Take care of yourself.

    C- to Alex5 Take care, Allen.Divertiti, Allen.

    Our next examples are instances of stylistic variation. Examples 5 and 6,for instance, illustrate register variation in two directions. In Example 5the Italian dub proposes a range of translation choices (buonasera, ciao,salve) for the multifunctional English hello, which is used independentlyof the social identity of interlocutors. In Example 6, on the other hand, itis the dubbed version which uses less varied expressions, thus failing tosignal different forms for different speakers to encode distinct relations(e. g. in terms of degrees of intimacy, vicinity): ciao for both hi and hello.


    5 Sloan has just been introduced to Alex and addresses him as Allen, probably becausehe has misunderstood his interlocutors name and wants to close the conversation assoon as possible.



  • 35Formulae across languages

    Example 5[LA]O-g PM to elderly woman Hello, does Natalie live here?

    Buonasera, Natalie abita qui?O-g PM to kids Ah. Hello. Does Natalie live here?

    Ah, ciao. Natalie abita qui?O-g-p PM to woman Hello. Sorry to disturb. Does Natalie live here?

    Buonasera. Scusi per il disturbo. Natalie abita qui?O-g PM to Natalies family Ah. Hello. Is er Natalie in?

    Ah, salve! Natalie in casa?O-g Natalie to herself Oh, where the fuck is my fucking coat?

    Ma dove cazzo il mio cappotto del cazzo?to PM Oh. Hello.

    Oh salve.O-g PM Hello.

    Ciao.I Natalie Erm this is my mum and my dad and my uncle

    Tony and my auntie Glynne.Ah, loro sono mia madre, mio padre, mio zio Tony,mia zia Glynne.

    I-g Family member Hi.Salve.

    Example 6[ML]O-g Alex to Sophie Hi. Rhonda Hello. Rhonda, I bought these for your children [].

    Ciao. Rhonda, ho portato questo per i tuoi figli [].

    In Example 7, incongruence emerges in the combination of the greetingexpression and the vocative used in the Italian dubbed version. This testi-fies to the more restricted applicability of ciao vs. hello, since ciao hardlycollocates with items presupposing high degrees of social distance, whereashello does.

    Example 7[LA]I-g PM to Natalie Hello, Natalie.

    Ciao, Natalie.I-g Natalie Hello, David. I mean, Sir. Shit! I cant believe Ive

    just said that!Ciao, David, voglio dire, Signore. Oh cazzo! Ma comemi venuto in mente!

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    Conversely, in Example 8 the Italian dub proposes a shift towards a higherlevel of formality in the choice of arrivederci [good-bye] for the originalbye-bye. The shift appears to be motivated only in part by contingent rea-sons linked to the plot of the film and lip synchronization. Chris needs toconceal the true identity of his interlocutor on the phone to his in-laws,which could explain the reason for such a formal usage at the end of theconversation with Nola, his secret lover. Yet, his in-laws are at a reasonablysecure hearing distance. Maybe his desire to dismiss Nola (and to split upwith her) is what accounts for such an abrupt closure. With respect to lipsynchronization, the rather long arrivederci instead of ciao matches betterthe disyllabic structure of bye-bye, although this may not be relevant sincethe scene is framed as a medium shot.

    Example 8[MP]

    Nola to Chris (on the phone) [] Do you miss me?[] Ti manco?

    (T) C- Chris Ok. Bye-bye.Ok. Arrivederci.

    We now turn to examples which highlight divergences due to the presenceof slang and/or idiolectal forms. The correspondence between English andItalian is far from straightforward, leading to frequent neutralization inthe Italian dub. A case in point is Example 9, where the evaluative slangexpression wicked is rendered through the neutral greeting ciao.

    Example 9[LA]I Colin Im Colin, by the way.

    Io sono Colin, comunque.I Nancy Im Nancy.

    Piacere, Nancy.I-p Colin Wicked. What do you do, Nancy?

    Ciao. Che cosa fai, Nancy?

    In Example 10, the original and translated versions display a clash in theregister employed; moreover, there is a lack of internal coherence within theturn in the Italian dub. The English text exhibits forms such as gotta bookand you guys, which signal informality, intimacy and vicinity. The Italianversion attempts to convey the same social implicature by the verb schizzare[to dash] and the vocative ragazzi [guys], but mixes them up with a more


  • 37Formulae across languages

    formal routine for expressing gratitude such as grazie infinite [roughly,many/heartfelt thanks]. The latter is intended to suggest a high level ofintensity, which in the English original is signalled by thank you so much.

    Example 10[ML]C-p- Ray to Alex and Sophie We gotta book. Thank you so much. Looking for-

    ward to working with you guys.Beh, noi dobbiamo schizzare. Grazie infinite.Non vediamo lora di lavorare con voi, ragazzi.

    In the next example, the slang expression piss off is omitted altogether inthe Italian translation.

    Example 11[GSH]C-p Pete to Matt Go on, piss off. Give you a bell later.

    Va a casa, ti faccio uno squillo pi tardi.

    Finally, the example below shows how the colloquial opening form ayeaye, an idiolectal feature of the character Pete, is rendered in the Italiandubbing via the reduplicative ehi ehi, which, to an extent, successfullyreproduces the original greeting in both form and sound. Another optionwhich is also used is the more neutral ciao. However, such diversificationin dubbing irreparably produces the loss of an important feature which, inthe original, contributes to the description of the character.

    Example 12[GSH]O-g Pete Aye aye!

    Ehi ehi!

    We now turn to examples of quantitative asymmetry in the mapping offormulae in English and Italian.

    5.2 Quantitative asymmetry

    In this section of our chapter we focus on phenomena of quantitativeimbalance in the mapping of formulae in terms of, on the one hand, omis-sion and condensation, and on the other hand addition and/or minorsubstitution as well as correlated explicitation of material in the Italian dub.

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    Example 13 illustrates omission: the translation for the greeting hellois missing (for other instances of omission, see Examples 3 and 4 in 5.1).

    Example 13[MP]I-g-i Chris to Mrs Eastby Hello. Good to meet you.

    Piacere di conoscerla.

    Our next example shows an instance of the vocative, which is used in theoriginal to elicit the addressees attention, being eliminated in the Italiandubbed version on account of the fact that Lucinda is seen from behindand then she moves towards Oscar. As a consequence, there are no con-straints associated with quantitative synchrony in this case. However, thevocative, although not strictly necessary, serves to confirm Oscars iden-tity, given that Lucinda sees him from a distance. It also has a politenessdimension associated to it, since the use of personal names brings the co-speakers nearer to each other (cf., among many, Bargiela et al. 2002).

    Example 14[OL]O-v-p Lucinda to Oscar Mr. Hopkins? Forgive me.


    Example 15 is an instance of omission/substitution. In the original sound-track, Matt is introduced to Steve, who uses a vocative followed by theinformal phatic expression all right, mate, to achieve proximity. In Italiandub, the vocative Matt is totally obliterated and then repositioned at thevery end of the neutral greeting ciao. This is allowed by the lip synchroni-zation, because of the consonance of the two words Matt and mate.

    Example 15[GSH]I-v-p Steve to Matt Matt. All right, mate!

    Ciao, Matt.

    Example 16 illustrates substitution. The hi slot is replaced with a vocativeof endearment (tesoro mio [my dear]), thus rendering the Italian dub locallymore explicit in terms of attitudinal overtones, although the phaticity of theturn is quite prominent, due to the somehow mechanical use of this open-ing on repeated occasions by the same speaker (for other cases of substitu-tion of routine expressions with vocatives, see for instance Example 1 in 5.1).


  • 39Formulae across languages

    Example 16[LA](T) O-g-p Sarah to her brother (on the phone) Hello. Hi. How you doing?

    Pronto, tesoro mio, come stai?

    Our next example shows that it is possible for an original text and itsdubbed version to diverge both in the number and types of turns allocatedto speakers. This frequently happens in crowded scenes, where charactersdo not appear in close-ups and their turns of speech overlap to a greatextent. According to Laviosa-Braithwaite (1998), dubbing often privilegesexplicitation, the example below being a perfect illustration of this. In thisexample, the act of introducing oneself is more neatly described by a se-quence of turns, each of them uttered by one of the participants.

    Example 17[EP]I Clifton Happy to finally meet you!

    Splendido! Finalmente vi conosco tutti!I Madox This is Dante DAgostino and Bermann, our archaeologist.

    Le presento Dante DAgostino > I DAgostino

    Piacere.Madox E Didi Bermann, il nostro archeologo

    > I Berman Piacere.

    > I-g-p Clifton Salve, come va?

    Our last example in this section is 18, where once again the preference forexplicitation in Italian dubbing is evident and is also allowed by the ab-sence of close-ups on the characters engaged in the talk exchange.

    Example 18[BJ]I Mr. Wisley Miss Jane Austen.

    Signori, ho il piacere di presentarvi Miss Jane Austen.I Jane Pleasure. (bows)

    Signori, il piacere mio.

    In what follows, we present several different instances of substitution whichbring about more prominent qualitative effects in the Italian dub.

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    5.3 Other types of examples

    In Example 19 the evaluative adjective gorgeous is substituted with giaguaro[jaguar] in the Italian translation, thereby making it more congruent withthe onomatopoeic reply of the interlocutor:

    Example 19[LA]I-g Carol-Anne meets Colin Well, step aside, ladies. This ones on me.

    Hey, gorgeous!Allora fatevi da parte, ragazze. Lui mio.Ciao, giaguaro!

    Colin Grrr!Grrr!

    It should be noted that the close-up of Carol-Anne clearly shows thatthere is only a partial lip synchronization, mainly because of the mismatchin vowel sounds. This is, however, acceptable, given the quickness of theshot. In this case, the coherence between gesture and speech definitelyprevails over the technical aspect. Example 20, on the other hand, illus-trates a mismatch in translation. More specifically, in the original sound-track the vocative sunshine is used ironically by Pete to address Matt, whohas just woken up, thus subverting its original meaning of endearment. Inthe Italian dub this appellative is replaced by Yankee, thus losing the ironicflavour and adding offensive overtones.

    Example 20[GSH]O-g-p Pete Morning, sunshine! How dyou feel?

    Buongiorno, Yankee! Come ti senti?

    The case in Example 21 is quite interesting, as it shows an example of aterm of endearment that is closely modelled on the original. The expres-sion my sausage is a typical idiolectal term of endearment used by GeoffreyClifton towards his wife Catherine, whose literal translation does not soundparticularly natural in spoken Italian. What is more, the closing formulathat follows (I love you), typical in English closings on the phone, is ren-dered with a structural calque (ti amo tanto [I love you so much]) which istotally inappropriate in Italian. This case belongs to the phenomenon thathas been called translation routines (among others, by Pavesi 2006: 48




    ChiaraCommentoesempio di translation routine

  • 41Formulae across languages

    49): automatic choices that make the translating process easier and areusually linked to prefabricated sequences. As is the case here, translationroutines often stem from calques in the source language and tend to estab-lish themselves in usage in the target language.

    Example 21[EP](T) C-v-p Clifton to Catherine Thats good. Ok, my sausage, I love you.

    Brava. Ciao, salsicciotto, ti amo tanto.

    We now briefly present the main quantitative findings of our study, whichcomplement the qualitative analysis.

    5.4 A few quantitative findings

    Figure 1 provides a quantitative overview of the various English greetingsin the Openings of the nine films we have analyzed. The most quantita-tively prominent form is hello (88 occurrences out of 256), followed by hi(60), hey (37) and welcome (11 occurrences).












    0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100



    Aye ayeYoOi

    Good morningMorningBonjour

    Boa NoiteGood afternoon

    AfternoonGood evening


    Welcome backHave a good day

    W + DearT + Name

    T + yeah/yes?T + it's + Name

    Figure 1: Types of O-g in English (256 occurrences in total).




  • 42

    The more quantitatively prominent combinatory patterns of English ex-pressions in the varying macro-functions of Openings, Introductions andClosings can be seen in Table 1. Opening patterns are more frequent thanboth Closings and Introductions. Quite predictably, the most frequentpatterns of Openings are greetings proper (e. g. hello), while in the case ofIntroductions the combinations that are used most involve typical expres-sions for this function (e. g. nice to meet you). In the case of Closings, how-ever, the linguistic expressions most often used are utterances of phaticcommunion. This is quite a surprising finding, given our comprehensivecategory of leave-takings proper; the explanation may reside in the con-straints associated to film, as we have mentioned in Section 5.

    O-g 185 I 108 C-p 224O-p 111 I-g 53 C- 124O-v 76 I-p 10 C-v-p 4O-g-p 25 I-g-p 8 C- -p 4O-v-p 12 I-g-i 8 O-p- 4Overall number of Overall number of Overall number ofcombinations for O: 432 combinations for I: 192 combinations for C: 375

    Table 1: Overview of combinatory patterns of English expressions.

    In Figure 2 we present an overview of the most frequent greetings used inthe Italian dubbed versions of the nine films we worked on. Ciao is byfar the most prominent (89 occurrences out of 240), followed by pronto(on the phone, 26 occurrences), salve (21), buongiorno (17), buonasera(15 occurrences), and others. In a few cases (12 in total), there were addi-tions of greetings in the translations where none were present in the sourcetexts.


  • 43Formulae across languages

    Figure 2: Translating options for O-g in Italian dub (240 occurrences in total).

    Finally, Figure 3 shows which greetings are most often used in the threeoriginal Italian films we analyzed. Interestingly, the most frequent formsare buongiorno (18 occurrences out of 62), ciao (16), pronto (8) andbuonasera (4 occurrences). This largely complies with findings about theItalian dub.












    0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100




    EhilBuona giornata

    BonjourBoa noite

    ehi ehiGrande!

    Sei arrivato!Ci se i?


    T + Sono NW + Caro N

    T + Nam e

    BuongiornoCiaoOtherPronto?T + S?Buonasera

    Figure 3: Overview of O-g Types in the three original Italian films.

    Due to space limitations, it is not possible to discuss these findings here infurther detail. This could be one of the objectives of future research aim-ing to integrate a qualitative and quantitative approach to the study offormulae in translation.

  • 44

    6. Conclusions

    Greetings and leave-takings are crucial indices of social relationships be-tween characters and their development. Our analysis enables us to con-clude that these features are granted significant space both in English filmlanguage and dubbed Italian, hence the importance of a congruent map-ping. What is more, greetings and leave-takings are keys to orality in theItalian dub, as shown by findings which are in line with those obtainedfrom the analysis of three Italian films. Several relevant issues and trendsin translation have emerged, most importantly the asymmetry of good forms,the coherence in register across turns and between characters, and peculiarchoices pertaining to idiolectal varieties and connoted slang.

    The analysis has also revealed a few aspects which deserve further in-vestigation. In particular, leave-takings include expressions with differentdegrees of fixity as well as a vast range of expressions of phatic commun-ion, for which a more refined system of categorization should be used.Furthermore, the different types of expressions should be analyzed in moredepth, in relation to the so-called translation routines whose uncertain sta-tus between translationese and real Italian could be checked in a widercorpus of Italian films as well as in spontaneous spoken Italian.