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Audiovisual translation problems of culture bound elements a study of the american film pirates of the caribbean at world’s end

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

NGUYỄN DUY ANH

AUDIOVISUAL TRANSLATION PROBLEMS
OF CULTURE-BOUND ELEMENTS:
A STUDY OF THE AMERICAN FILM
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END
Những khó khăn trong việc dịch các thành tố văn hoá
trong tài liệu âm-hình, nghiên cứu qua bộ phim Mỹ:
Cướp biển vùng Caribê: Nơi tận cùng thế giới

M.A. COMBINED PROGRAM THESIS
Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201

Hanoi, 2016



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

NGUYỄN DUY ANH

AUDIOVISUAL TRANSLATION PROBLEMS
OF CULTURE-BOUND ELEMENTS:
A STUDY OF THE AMERICAN FILM
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END
Những khó khăn trong việc dịch các thành tố văn hoá
trong tài liệu âm-hình, nghiên cứu qua bộ phim Mỹ:
Cướp biển vùng Caribê: Nơi tận cùng thế giới

M.A. COMBINED PROGRAM THESIS
Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hoàng Văn Vân

Hanoi, 2016


RESEARCHER’S STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY

The work presented in this thesis is, to the researcher‟s knowledge and belief, is
original and done by the researcher‟s own effort, besides, all sources of the
materials quoted in the thesis are also acknowledged adequately. Finally, the current
thesis has not been submitted for any degree at this university and others and also
has not been published.

Hanoi, 2016

Nguyễn Duy Anh

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This MA thesis was successfully completed with the supports of many people to


whom I want to express my gratitude.
Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to my supervisor, Professor Hoàng Văn Vân
for his valuable instruction, aids and encouragement throughout my research
process.
Secondly, I want to express my thanks to the professors, doctors, lecturers and all
other people at the Post-graduate Faculty of ULIS for their lessons and supports
during my MA course.
Last but not least, I want to express my gratitude to my beloved family and friends
whose supports and understanding contributed a lot in the success of my MA thesis.
Hanoi, 2016
Nguyễn Duy Anh

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ABSTRACT

In translation studies, the term audiovisual is not so strange to scholars and
researchers. With the development of the film industry around the world, the field
of AVT study plays the role of an effective tool which facilitates the directors and
producers‟ need of bringing film products across the country borderline.
As discussed by many scholars, the notion of culture plays an essential role in
translation. In AVT where the verbal text is supported by the other media, the
cultural elements become a challenge. Thus, this study aims at investigating the
issue of culture-bound elements in audiovisual translation.
Analysing the selected American film entitled Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s
End, the study seeks to (1) identify the culture-bound elements in the film, (2) find
the translation problems of these elements and (3) suggest some strategies to
improve the translation of these elements. The study is hoped to bring some helpful
insights to the translation of films.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

RESEARCHER’S STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY ................................................................ i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................................................................................. ii
ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................................... iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS................................................................................................................ iv
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ........................................................................................................ vi
PART A: INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................1
1. Rationale ....................................................................................................................................... 1
2. Aim, Objectives and Research Questions .................................................................................. 3
3. Corpus and Methodology ............................................................................................................ 4
4. Scope of the Study ........................................................................................................................ 5
5. Design of the Study ...................................................................................................................... 5
PART B: DEVELOPMENT ............................................................................................................7
CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND ........................................................................7
1.1. The Theories of Translation ..................................................................................................... 7
1.1.1 Definitions of Translation ..................................................................................................... 7
1.1.2. Audiovisual Translation ....................................................................................................... 8
1.2. Culture Bound Elements in Translation ............................................................................... 10
1.2.1. The Issues of Equivalence.................................................................................................. 10
1.2.2. Culture and Translation ...................................................................................................... 13
1.2.3. Culture-bound Elements in Translation ............................................................................. 14
1.2.3.1. Definitions Culture-bound Elements (CBEs) .............................................................. 14
1.2.3.2. Classification of CBEs ................................................................................................ 17
1.2.3.3. Classification Suggested for the Present Study ........................................................... 23
1.2.3.4. Translation Strategies for CBEs .................................................................................. 26
1.3. Concluding Remarks .............................................................................................................. 30

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CHAPTER 2: THE TRANSLATION OF CULTURE-BOUND ELEMENTS IN PIRATES OF
THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END.......................................................................................31
2.1. A Brief Introduction to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ...................................... 31
2.2. Data and Examples Format.................................................................................................... 32
2.3. Culture-bound Elements in the Original Version ................................................................ 34
2.3.1 The Main CBEs throughout the Corpus .............................................................................. 36
2.3.1.1. Talking Like Pirates: The Nautical Languages ........................................................... 36
2.3.1.2. The Elements from Third Cultures (E3Cs) ................................................................. 40
2.3.2 Other CBEs in the Film ....................................................................................................... 44
2.3.2.1. The Verbal Elements ................................................................................................... 44
2.3.2.2. The Non-verbal Elements ........................................................................................... 47
2.4. Translation Problems of CBEs and Some Translation Strategies ...................................... 50
2.4.1. Translation Problems of CBEs in the Current Film ........................................................... 50
2.4.2. Possible Strategies for CBEs.............................................................................................. 55
2.4.2.1. Loan ............................................................................................................................ 55
2.4.2.2. Calque or Literal Translation ...................................................................................... 57
2.4.2.3. Explicitation ................................................................................................................ 59
2.4.2.4. Transposition ............................................................................................................... 60
2.4.2.5. Addition ...................................................................................................................... 61
2.4.2.6. Compensation.............................................................................................................. 62
2.4.2.7 Omission ...................................................................................................................... 63
2.5. Concluding Remarks .............................................................................................................. 64
PART C: CONCLUSION ..............................................................................................................66
1. Summary ..................................................................................................................................... 66
1.1. Theoretical Review ............................................................................................................... 66
1.2. Study Results......................................................................................................................... 67
2. Limitations and Suggestions for Further Research ................................................................ 68
2.1. Limitations ............................................................................................................................ 68
2.2. Suggestions for Further Research ......................................................................................... 69
REFERENCES ................................................................................................................................70
APPENDIX ........................................................................................................................................ I

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

3C

Third culture

AVT

Audiovisual translation

AV

Audiovisual

CBEs

Culture-bound elements

CSRs

Culture-specific references

ECRs

Extralinguistic culture-bound references

E3C

Elements from third cultures

ESC

Elements from source culture

ETC

Elements from target culture

IC

Intercultural

ICE

Intercultural elements

ICRs

Intralinguistic culture-bound references

SA

Source audience

SC

Source culture

SL

Source language

ST

Source text

TA

Target audience

TC

Target culture

TL

Target language

TT

Target text

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PART A: INTRODUCTION
1. Rationale
Presently, with the advance of science and technology, the film industry is also
rapidly developing in both quantity and quality. All nations across the world have
developed for themselves different film culture and at different level of
development. A movie is not only a product of entertainment. It shows the level of
development of the country where it comes from, and re-animates the language,
culture as well as the history, the society and the beauty of this country.
At the end of the era of the silent films, when the language was bought into the
movies as an effective tool of expression, a new problem also rose, challenging film
directors and producers all over the world: their audiovisual products must be
translated in order to bring them across the boundaries of language and culture. The
term audiovisual translation (AVT) was born as a tool to facilitate the understanding
and transferring of culture and ideas which are presented in film products and other
audiovisual products such as TV show, TV dramas and video games.
AVT has become an important part of our daily life. Many scholars and scientists
have been investing their properties and intelligence into the subject. As a result,
many documents namely Topics in Audiovisual Translation by Pilar Orero (2004),
Jorge Dìaz Cintas and Gunilla Anderman‟s Audiovisual Translation: Language
Transfer on Screen (2009) were created. The information for the field is also
provided in many academic associations in the world, such as the European
Association for Studies in Screen Translation (ESIST).
A feature film, or a movie, is a complete product which consists of many features.
These features include the language of the film, presenting the verbal
communication, and the non-verbal communication, namely the music, sounds,
objects, gestures of the characters and other features. Besides, the film contains the

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cultural characteristics of the country where it was produced and also the social
characteristics of the historical periods that it presents. These features of a feature
film bring lots of challenges to translators.
Translators are the people who bring the understanding of the texts to the “readers”
from different language communities and at different knowledge background. When
translating a movie, translators have a very important role of not only transferring
the meaning of the language of the directors but also transferring the culture from
the source to the target language. In the translation of a movie, there are many
difficulties for translators in terms of language and culture. The audience‟s main
need is to understand what the characters are talking about on the screen. However,
there is another issue that is not less important: it is that the translation must be
acceptable in the receptive society. This problem lies on the differences between the
two communities with different cultures and civilizations.
Focusing on culture-bound elements, this thesis has the main aim of identifying the
problems in terms of culture that occur during the English – Vietnamese translation
of the American feature film entitled: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
directed by Gore Verbinski. This is an American entertaining movie; however, it
also contains many features for translators to concern. The film was written based
on a historical period in the past in the Caribbean area, when the pirates were a part
of the society. During that era, most of the countries were under the reign of
feudalism, in which the social values, the culture background and also the language
style were very different from present. One of the film‟s appealing factors is that
when watching it, the audience will come through many different tones of feeling,
from horror to romance, from hatred to love, and from peace to war. Telling the
story of a golden reign of pirates of the Caribbean area, the film consists of
elements from many cultural backgrounds, from the mysterious China to the wild
Africa, thus, it is really a challenge for translators to transfer the culture-bound

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elements in this movie to the audiences who speak another language and come from
another community.
The differences in culture may cause translators to misunderstand the text and to
mis-translate it. This study aims to find out the problems related to culture-bound
elements in the conversations of the movie‟s characters that bring challenges to
translators and to give some suggestions to transfer these items into Vietnamese. In
Vietnam, there are few researchers interested in this field; therefore, the researcher
hopes to bring some useful suggestions for translators of movies and other
audiovisual products. The study, thus, is expected to be helpful for translators and
interpreters of other fields.
2. Aim, Objectives and Research Questions
The overarching aim of this study is to investigate the audiovisual translation
problems of culture-bound elements (CBEs) in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: At
World’s End. This aim is broken to be the following objectives:
 Identifying and categorising the CBEs in the film;
 Finding the translation problems of CBEs in the film;
 Offering some suggestions on using possible strategies for the translations of
CBEs in the film.
To achieve the above aim and objectives, the study raises the following research
questions for exploration:
1. What are the main culture-bound elements contained in the film Pirates of
the Caribbean: At World’s End?
2. What are the major problems in translating the culture-bound elements in the
film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End?

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3. Corpus and Methodology
The selected film to be used as the corpus of the current study is the American film
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End produced by Jerry Bruckheimer in 2008.
The very first step of the research is to download the film. The mp4 file of the
movie with Vietnamese subtitle is downloaded from the website www.phimmoi.net
and the English filmscript is taken from www.script-o-rama.com. In addition, the
researcher also records some examples from the VTV version on Starmovie (on
TV). However, the names of the Vietnamese translators are unknown. A brief
introduction to the film (containing its producers, context, plot and main characters)
will be presented at the beginning of chapter 2.
Before collecting and analysing the data, the researcher will firstly study the
theoretical framework concerning culture-bound elements and translation strategies.
Henceforth, the following procedure will be conducted:
To answer the first research question, the researcher will watch the film with the
help of the downloaded English script and the culture-bound elements identified in
the characters‟ talks and conversations will be recorded and categorised based on
the framework.
After identifying the CBEs in the original version, the Vietnamese versions will be
examined. The purpose of this is to find the problems in the translation of CBEs in
the film. In fact, the researcher will compare the translated versions with the
original to see whether the translation of CBEs in these versions is appropriate and
accurate or not, base on the researcher‟s personal experience and research. After
that, the translation strategies for the elements found in the film will also be
suggested based on the taxonomies given in the theoretical background.

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The main approach used in this study is qualitative, which means the researcher will
base himself on a theoretical framework to analyse the corpus. The data of the study
will be presented quantitatively in their number of occurrence.
4. Scope of the Study
As mentioned above, the objectives of the study are to identify the culture-bound
elements in the American film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and the
translation problems of these elements, and to suggest the possible translation
strategies for these elements. The data for analysis is taken from the film Pirates of
the Caribbean: At World’s End. Therefore, this study cannot convey all aspects and
features of culture-bound elements and it cannot point out all problems coming up
when translating audiovisual products. Due to the limitation of time and length of
the study, the researcher will only focus on the culture references in the characters‟
conversations and speeches within the movie. Otherwise, the current study is not an
evaluation by any translation versions of any other translators. In fact, the selected
Vietnamese versions are examined only to find the problems in translating the
CBEs in the film. It is also necessary to note that this study does not deal with any
particular types of AVT namely subtitling, dubbing or interpreting.
5. Design of the Study
The study will be organised as follow:
The first part, Introduction, will consist of five parts: Rationale, Aims and
Research Questions, Scope of the Study, Corpus and Methodology and Design
of the Study.
The second part, Development, will consist of two chapters. Chapter one is the
Theoretical background which will provide some definitions of translation, the
notion of culture in translation, some definitions and categorisation of culture-

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bound elements, some definitions and concepts of audiovisual translation and some
taxonomies of translation strategies. Chapter two entitled The Translation of
Culture-bound Elements in the Film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
form English into Vietnamese will discuss the categorisation, translation problems
of the culture-bound elements in the film and suggest some translation strategies for
these elements.
The last part, Conclusion, will recapitulate the main contents of the study, point out
limitations of the study, and provide some suggestions for further research.

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PART B: DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
1.1. The Theories of Translation
1.1.1 Definitions of Translation
Presently, translation has become a very wide and complex area of research in
applied linguistics and it started to be scientifically concerned in the 1960s. The
concept of translation has been viewed and explained differently through a long
time of development; therefore, the definition of it has varied.
Newmark (1988:7) defined translation as “a craft consisting in the attempt to
replace a written message and/or statement in one language by the same message
and/or statement in another language.” He also emphasized the role of the author‟s
intension when “rendering a written text into another language.” (Newmark, 1988:
5)
Having the same idea as Newmark (1988), Webber (1968) defined translation as
“the transposition of a text written in a source language (SL) into a target language
(TL)”; however, in this author‟s opinion, the original text must be translated so that
the readers can understand it easily. To do so, an absolute accuracy in terms of
meaning and content must be achieved, that says, translators have to pay attention
to the matters of equivalence.
The opinion of Webber (1968) was partially followed by some other authors. Being
one among those, Bell (1991) considered the equivalence in terms of semantic and
stylistic elements an essence of translation. This scholar stated: “Translation is the
expression in another language (or TL) of what has been expressed in another,
source language, preserving semantic and stylistic equivalences.” (Bell, 1991: 5)

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1.1.2. Audiovisual Translation
As mentioned earlier, with the strong development of the global film industry, all
countries in the world have developed for themselves different film cultures and at
different levels of development. In addition, to meet the demand of the majority of
the audience world-wide, with the development of technology, language had
gradually been brought into films as an effective tool of content expression. This
advance in the film industry had raised a new challenge to directors and producers
in translating their film products into other languages. According to Heiss (1996:
13, cited in Sacconi, 2013: 6), in the late 1990s, translators and scholars started to
cope with the problems of the translation of films and TV programs as audiovisual
text. The difficulty is that this kind of text is not simply the composition of language
but also includes sound and visual element.
According to the Oxford Dictionaries (oxforddictionaries.com), the adjective
audiovisual is defined as “using both sight and sound, typically in the form of
images and recorded speech or music”. The term audiovisual text is used along with
the appearance of audiovisual products such as films, tragedies, comedies, opera
show, video games. These products contain multimedia features namely sounds,
music, or images and thus, can be considered as audiovisual texts, or multimedia
texts.
The term audiovisual translation (AVT) refers to the translation of audiovisual texts.
Luis Perez Gonzales in Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (cited by
Baker & Saldanha, 2009: 13) defined audiovisual translation as follows:
Audiovisual translation is a branch of Translation Studies concerned with the
transfer of multimodal and multimedial texts into another language and/or
culture.

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Having a slight different view point, Jorge Dias Cintas and Remael (2007: 13)
defined audiovisual translation as “the translation of products in which the verbal
dimension is supplemented by elements in another media.” This definition is more
satisfactory due to a clear explanation of the nature of audiovisual products.
From the definitions above, it can be concluded that audiovisual products are
different from other kind of texts because they involve many other codes than just
the verbal. The codes in audiovisual products are categorized in detail by Chaume
(2004: 17-22, cited in Sacconi, 2013: 51, 52). According to this citation, an
audiovisual text consists of ten codes as follows:
VERBAL CODE
 The linguistic code is the text, common point of all the other types of
translation. Chaume (p. 17) specifies that this text “has to appear oral and
spontaneous (written to be spoken as if not written […] )”.
SOUND CODE
 The paralinguistic code is conventional symbols indicating brackets,
silences, pauses (p. 17).
 The musical code and the special effects code are the songs and the rhythm
of the music. The special effects code refers to sound effects such as
laughing, applauses, etc. (p. 18).
 The sound arrangement code refers to diegetic sound, belonging to the story,
or non-diegetic, belonging to somebody or something that is not part of the
story, as an off-screen narrator (p. 18).
VISUAL CODE
 The iconographic code is when iconographic symbols that are not known by
the target audience appear and they need to be explained in some way within
the film (p. 19). 52
 The photographic code refers to the changes in lighting, in perspective, or in
the use of colour. Chaume makes the example that a colour can be associated
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to a feeling in a country, while in the target country the same colour is
associated to completely different things (p. 19).
 The planning code refers to the types of shots that could be present in film.
In close-ups and extreme close-ups, the text has to respect lip synchrony (pp.
19 – 20). It is also linked to synchronization with body movements (p. 20).
 The mobility code refers to the position of the characters in the scene, how
much characters are distant from other characters or from the camera. Lip
synchrony is important too (p. 20).
 The graphic code refers to the written text that appears on the screen, such as
titles, intertitles, texts and subtitles (p. 21).
 The syntactic code concerns the fact that “being aware of iconic associations
can help the translator to better understand […] the relationship of one scene
to another and the position of the scene within the development of the plot
and the narrative” (p. 21).
Chaume (2004: 17-22, cited in Sacconi, 2013: 51, 52)
As can be seen, the problems in translating movies are not only from the linguistic
text but from other elements as well, such as sounds or images. In fact, the current
study cannot deal with all of the above codes but focuses on the verbal elements,
which are the only thing that can be actually translated. However, the non-verbal
elements are also mentioned as the supports for the verbal ones.
1.2. Culture Bound Elements in Translation
1.2.1. The Issues of Equivalence
Through time, the area of translation studies has reached a high level of
development, thus, the number of approaches to this field is also various. According
to Munday (2001: 1), the nature of translation can be considered multilingual and
interdisciplinary with many types of approach from the different points of view of
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linguistics, communication or culture. Despite the variety of approaches, as can be
seen in the example of definitions above, all views in the field of translation studies
have a common concept of equivalence.
In fact, equivalence is considered the central concept in the area of translation
studies; however, the true nature of it in translation is still arguable. According to
Roman Jakobson (cited in Munday, 2001: 36), a full equivalence between
languages never exists while the Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (2009: 96)
defined this term as the relationship between the original text (source text – ST) and
its translation in the target language (target text – TT). A very famous author, Peter
Newmark (1988), claimed that the effect of equivalence is the most wanted result in
any translation. He also considered this effect “the overriding purpose of any
translation should be to achieve.”
The concept of equivalence can be investigated in many different approaches. One
of these approaches was quantitative-based by Munday (2001), which can be
divided into one-to-one equivalence, one-to-many equivalence, many-to-one
equivalence, one-to-part-of-one equivalence or nil equivalence. This approach
focuses on the quantity or the number of elements that are equivalent to each other
in the source language and the target language. For some other scholars,
equivalence in translation can be meaning-based (Koller, 1989), function-based
(Nida, 1964) or form-based (Baker, 1994).
Baker (1994) listed two levels of equivalence: word level and above-word level,
among those, the word level focuses on the translation of a linguistic unit: word,
when the other concentrates on the translation of the text in its general sense and
meaning. Munday (2001: 19) has the similar idea to Baker by giving the word-toword translation and sense-to-sense translation. By sense-to-sense translation, the
issue is that translators have to keep the author‟s intention in the source text, thus, a
meaning accuracy at word level may not be achieved. In other words, when

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transferring the sense from one language to another, translators cannot always use
word-to-word translation; therefore, the problem of non-equivalence will appear.
As mentioned earlier, equivalence is considered, by many scholars, the central
concept in translation. As a consequence, it can be denied that non-equivalence is
the hardest issue for any translators which can lead to a big problem called
“untranslatability”. Baker (1994: 21-26) suggested 11 problems of non-equivalence
at word level. These problems can be listed as:
 Culture-specific concepts
 The source-language concept is not lexicalized in the target language
 The source-language word is semantically complex
 The source and target languages make different distinctions in meaning
 The target language lacks a superordinate
 The target language lacks a specific term (hyponym)
 Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective
 Differences in expressive meaning
 Differences in form
 Differences in frequency and purpose using specific forms
 The use of loan words in the source text.
Among these, the problem of culture-specific concepts was put at the first place and
this problem also draws the attention of many other academic scholars in the field
of translation. This problem can be explained briefly as follows:
The source-language word may express a concept which is totally unknown in
the target culture. The concept in question may be abstract or concrete; it may
relate to a religious belief, a social custom, or even a type of food. Such
concepts are often referred to as „culture specific‟. (Baker, 1994: 21)

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In fact, the notion of culture and culture-specific terms/concepts/elements in
translation has been concerned by many authors in the broad field of translation and
the definitions as well as other issues about these elements has also been
approached in many different ways. This notion will be discussed further in the next
paragraphs.
1.2.2. Culture and Translation
In general, culture can be defined as “the customs, beliefs, art, way of life and social
organisation of a particular country or group.” This definition is given by the
Oxford Dictionaries (oxforddictionaries.com). From this point of view, it may be
understood that culture is almost everything that forms a community.
Anthropologically, Tylor (1871) considered culture as a “complex whole” including
all capabilities and habits that has been acquired by any member of the human
society, namely human knowledge, belief, art, law, morals or customs.
Toury (cited in Ray, 2008: 129) also claimed “translations are facts of target
culture”. In fact, culture is always an essential aspect in translation due to the
involvement of translation in different languages as well as different cultures.
Paying more attention to the relationship between culture and translation, Newmark
(1988: 94) defined culture as "the way of life and its manifestations that are peculiar
to a community that uses a particular language as its means of expression". This
opinion, thus, can be recapitulated that each language community has its own
culturally specific identity.
Risager (2006: 3) stated that “in the generic sense, we are dealing with language
and culture as phenomena shared by all humanity”. This can be understood that
language and culture are inseparable aspects of human. In fact, the inseparability of
language and culture has been discussed by many scholars. Lotman (1978: 211)
states that "no language can exist unless it is steeped in the context of culture; and
no culture can exist which does not have at its centre, the structure of natural
13


language. However, these two aspects are independent. In fact, the transference of
linguistic meanings is only considered one part of the translation process. Bassnett
(1980) claimed that it is dangerous to try to impose the values of the source culture
onto the target culture (Bassnett, 1980: 23). The translation of a text, practically,
must be not only understandable in terms of lexical meaning but also acceptable to
the readers and audiences from the target culture. Henceforth, the problem arising
for any translator is that in the process of translation, many other elements should
be acknowledged and the culture-bound elements are among those.
1.2.3. Culture-bound Elements in Translation
1.2.3.1. Definitions Culture-bound Elements (CBEs)
As mentioned earlier, Baker (1994) considered culture-specific concepts a problem
in translation which brings many difficulties to translators. However, due to the
broad sense and nature of culture, it is not easy to define and identify those culturebound elements. According to Franco Aixela (1996: 56-57, cited in Ranzato, 2013:
67), the first difficulty arising in defining a culture specific element is that every
element in a language, including even that language, is culturally specific.
In translation studies, especially in the area of audiovisual translation (AVT),
relatively few systematic definitions of these culture elements have been given. In
fact, some academic scholars in the field had tried to give definitions to these
elements; however, the points of view were given differently, using a vast array of
terms such as culture-specific, culture-bound elements, references, expressions or
terms.
From a socio-linguistic view point, Nord (1997: 34) referred to these cultural
elements as cultureme. He defined cultureme as “a social phenomenon of a culture
X that is regarded as relevant by members if this culture and, when compared with a
corresponding social phenomenon in a culture Y, is found to be specific to culture

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X.” This definition does not emphasise the role of culturemes in translation;
however, a relationship between cultures was partially shown. Besides, it can be
inferred that it is, to some extent, problematic for the members of culture Y to
understand this X-culture-bound element.
The most general terms used to refer to these elements are cultural references or
culture-specific references (CSRs). According to Mailhac (1996: 133-134), “by
cultural reference we mean any reference to a cultural entity which, due to its
distance from the target culture, is characterized by a sufficient degree of opacity
for the target reader to constitute a problem.” The author, concerning with the true
nature of CBEs, mentioned the distance between the source culture and the target
culture which is considered the main cause to the difficulty for the target readers in
understanding these elements. Thus, this definition is quite useful to the area of
translation studies where appropriate ways to translate CBEs are concerned.
Concerning the translation of CBEs in subtitling, Dias Cintas and Remael (2007:
200) defined these cultural elements as “extralinguistic references to items that are
tied up with a country‟s culture, history, or geography, and tend therefore to pose
serious translation challenges.” Here, the authors suggested the term “extralinguistic
references”, which has already appeared in another definition written by Pedersen
(2005: 114) as follows:
Extralinguistic Culture-bound Reference (ECR) is defined as reference that is
attempted by means of any culture-bound linguistic expression, which refers to
an extralinguistic entity or process, and which is assumed to have a discourse
referent that is identifiable to a relevant audience as this referent is within the
encyclopedic knowledge of this audience. (Pedersen, 2005: 114)
In fact, the module discussed in Pedersen (2005) was limited to the area of
extralinguistic culture-bound references (ECRs), the elements that refer to
extralinguistic entities or processes only, thus, this definition is not adequate for the
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identification of CBEs in the present study. However, Pedersen (2005) also
distinguished his “ECRs” from another term called intralinguistic culture bound
references, which, to this author, include idioms, proverbs, slang and dialects,
which should not be excluded in any studies about CBEs. Thus, for the purpose of
the current analysis, the concept of CBEs should consist of both of the terms given
by Pedersen (2005), which are extralinguistic and intralinguistic elements.
Besides, in this study, the term CBEs will be preferred to the others such as culture
specific references or cultural references. According to Karen Risager (2006: 163,
164), some distinction should be made between the two concepts of reference and
literal meaning, or denotation (ibid.: 163) when dealing with cultural elements.
Lyons (1995, cited in Risager, 2006: 163) used the term “reference” for an act of
pointing at something in the real world in the process of language using and the
term “denotation” for the literal meaning of the language only. Thus, by using the
terms “references”, the scholars mentioned in the previous paragraphs cannot
convey the elements that do not possess any entities or processes to be referred to in
the real (extralinguistic) world. In other words, the terms such as culture-specific
references or cultural-references has unintentionally excluded the elements that
Pedersen (2005) called intralinguistic culture-bound references (ICRs) which can be
inferred to have culture-bound contents which are specific to a particular culture but
do not possess any real culture-specific references.
In conclusion, the present study will follow a fundamental concept of culture-bound
elements (CBEs), the elements which are specific to particular cultures, which
consists of two aspects of which the first one will be extralinguistic culture-bound
references (the term given by Pedersen, 2005), as defined by the mentioned authors
above. For the second aspect, the area of slangs, idioms, dialects and so on given by
Pedersen (2005) will be kept but under another name of intralinguistic culturebound elements instead of ICRs. The classification of these CBEs will be discussed
in the next section.

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1.2.3.2. Classification of CBEs
Before Mona Baker (1994), who considered culture-specific concepts one of the
problems of non-equivalence in translation, Peter Newmark (1988), adapting the
opinion of Nida (1945), proposed a well-known set of cultural categories. This set
based on a range of field related to cultural-specific vocabulary:
 Ecology (animal, mountain, geography)
 Material culture (food, clothes, housing, transport and communications)
 Social culture (work and leisure)
 Organizations, customs, ideas (political, social, legal, religious or artistic
terms)
 Gestures and habits.
Although this categorisation is famous and has been quoted in many relevant
studies, in the opinion of Mailhac (1996) and Kwiecinski (2001, summarised in
Ranzato, 2013: 74), it was considered rigid and lack of contextualisation. Moreover,
it can only deal with the cultural elements at word level.
Dias Cintas and Remael (2007: 201) proposed a more detailed classification which
concerns the challenges in the context of AVT. This classification is as follows (the
examples are given by the authors):
Geographical References
 Objects from physical geography: savannah, mistral, tornado.
 Geographical objects: downs, plaza mayor.
 Endemic animal and plant species: sequoia, zebra.
Ethnographic References
 Objects from daily life: tapas, trattoria, igloo.

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