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Hierarchy and gender in the emergency room: pragmatics and translation choices in the Japanese version of the television series ER

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posted on 29.03.2022, 03:24 by Miyuki Arai
The advent of digital media products has enabled international audiences to enjoy TV dramas and films in a variety of languages. The present study focuses on the American TV drama ER, which is commercially available in Japanese on a DVD that includes both a dubbed and subtitled version. Because both dubbing and subtitling impose constraints on the process of translation, it is a demanding task for audiovisual (AV) translators to make translation choices within these restrictions. AV translators also need to take into account differences between the source culture and the target culture, including aspects of social structure and interpersonal relationships that can impact upon the approach to translation of the characters’ utterances. This study aims to investigate how translation choices affect the aspects of institutional hierarchy/power and gender in the original version (source text) of episodes of the American TV drama ER, as projected in the Japanese dubbed and subtitled versions (target texts). It also examines the impact of these particular translation choices on the images of the characters. The study consists of two phases. The first phase is a comparative textual analysis of extracts from the English original and the Japanese translated episodes of ER, focusing on address forms (including second-person pronouns) and the use of gender-associated sentence final forms (GASFFs) as pragmatic and gender markers. In the second phase of the study, a group of English speakers and a group of Japanese speakers watched an episode of ER in their respective first languages, and completed a survey and short follow-up interviews, which focused on the impressions of the characters (character images) formed while watching the episode. The first phase of the study reveals that linguistic markers of hierarchy, power and gender were more clearly displayed in the Japanese versions than in the original English version. This difference could be attributed to the effect of the choice of second-person pronouns and the use of gender-associated sentence final forms (GASFFs) in the Japanese versions. In some scenes, they also appear to contribute to the character images that were portrayed; and this was further investigated in the second phase. Survey data from the second phase of the study reveals few differences between the groups of English and Japanese speakers in terms of the character images that they perceived. Some of the comments in the follow-up interviews with the Japanese-speaking audience participants suggest that the images formed were influenced by the participants’ ‘gender filter’, which was in turn influenced by their generation and life experience. As participants made limited observations on the details of the Japanese used by characters in the drama, it is possible that their appraisals of the characters’ images were made at a subconscious level. By relating the finds from both the first and second phases, it is possible to conclude that pragmatic markers such as address forms including second person pronouns and gender-associated sentence final forms did not (at least on their own) determine the character image perceived by each viewer in this study. Although intercultural dimensions of AVT are important, there have been relatively few comparative studies that examine the pragmatics between Japanese text and English text. By drawing on dual perspectives gained from an analysis of linguistic features and audience impressions, the present study provides a model for researching AVT that can be refined and developed in future studies.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Background and history of audiovisual translation -- Chapter 3. Hierarchy in the hospital -- Chapter 4. Characters and images -- Chapter 5. Methodology -- Chapter 6. Findings from the first phase of the study : part 1-- Chapter 7. Findings from the first phase of the study : part 2 -- Chapter 8. Findings from the second phase of the study -- Chapter 9. Discussion and conclusion --References -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 265-285 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Peter Roger

Additional Supervisor 1

Lynda Yates


Copyright Miyuki Arai 2017. Copyright disclaimer: http://mq.edu.au/library/copyright






1 online resource (xvi, 290 pages) tables

Former Identifiers

mq:70854 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1268383