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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-takings
and good wishes in English film dialogue and in Italian dubbed language.
We first intend to ascertain how much space such speech acts are granted
in film language and dubbing. Although these conversational routines (in
the sense of Firth 1972 and Coulmas 1981) are scarcely informative, they
play in fact a paramount role in establishing a relational function within
interpersonal interactions. Also, we expect possible discrepancies to emerge
in the cross-linguistic mapping (cf., for instance, Verschueren 1981), due
to asymmetry in the respective repertoires of formulae (e. g. the English
leave-taking formula cheers or the Italian greeting salve) and to asymmetry
in the identification of relevant time spans (cf. good forms in English and
their Italian counterparts).
Our analysis focuses on a small corpus of nine recent American and
British films dubbed into Italian and fully transcribed orthographically
(see Section 4 of this chapter). In these films, language varies on different
dimensions: diatopically (British, American, Australian and Irish accents,
as well as London accents), diachronically (contemporary films, romantic
comedies, dramatic films and costume dramas) and diastratically (from
upper to lower social classes). We also make reference to three Italian films,
in order to compare original Italian film language with dubbed Italian.

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



This chapter is organized as follows: we first introduce greetings, leavetakings and good wishes as conversational routines and discuss them in
relation to relevant literature on their forms and functions; this is also where
we 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 next
section 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 wishes

as conversational routines
Conversational routines (cf. Firth 1972, Coulmas 1981 and Aijmer 1996)
are defined as pre-fabricated linguistic units used in a well-known and
generally accepted manner (Coulmas 1981: 1). Thus, in specific situations, 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. merry
Christmas). However, as Coulmas points out, competent language use is
always characterized by an equilibrium between the novel and the familiar (Coulmas 1981: 12). In other words, these routines are central in
linguistic action for different reasons: they perform an important social
function as they allow individuals to relate to others in an accepted manner, conforming to established rituals or ceremonial behaviour, but they
often also enact a balance between convention and creativity (cf. Coulmas
1981 for a comparison between conversational routines and idioms). The
universal nature of conversational routines has been acknowledged, although linguistic form is subject to cross-linguistic and cross-cultural
changes (Verschueren 1981: 134).
Greetings, leave-takings and good wishes have been granted significant attention in the sociolinguistic literature (see Coulmas 1981; Laver
1981; Eisenstein-Ebsworth et al. 1996; Hudson 1996 and Gramley and
Ptzold 2004). A recent review of relevant literature in Masi (2008) suggests that appropriate criteria to describe them could be the following:

Formulae across languages


1. their marginal vs. salient position within conversation (e. g. whether

they appear in initial, central, or final position);
2. their interactional reciprocity (i. e. symmetrical usage which may also
be subverted);
3. their fixedness of form (i. e. their more or less marked conformity to
convention, which helps conversational participants to identify the
relational function of such expressions).
Of these, the marginal-salient position has been the most important criterion for the selection and analysis of our data, since it can be viewed as
especially correlated with specific interactional (macro-)functions (see 2.1
in this chapter).

2.1 Greetings and leave-takings: A close-up

From the vast array of expressions that can be included in the category of
conversational routines, for the purpose of our project we decided to retain 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 salient
position, a conventional and fixed form and serve a politeness-related
expressive function, such as hello and good-bye;
terms of direct address or vocatives (e. g. Sir, darling), often co-occurring with greetings or leave-takings proper, but which can also appear
alone and can modify the degree of politeness of the speech act;
utterances of phatic communion, that is, routine expressions of a less
fixed nature which are more flexible in their meanings and functions,
e. g. inquiries about health, comments about the weather, etc. (cf. Laver
1981; see also Coupland and Coupland 1992 and Coupland 2003 on
small talk).
These three types of expressions are often tightly intertwined in our data
and jointly contribute to the negotiation of social relationships between
the participants in conversations.
Generally speaking, greetings and leave-taking formulae proper are
used to open and close communication (phatic function), to express feelings and attitudes towards interlocutors (expressive function), and, more



specifically, to indicate the relationship between speaker and interlocutor

in terms of power (superiority/inferiority) and solidarity (vicinity/remoteness) (cf. Brown and Gilman 1960). A special type of greeting in our data
is the introductory one (see Eisenstein-Ebsworth et al. 1996), which may
involve more or less ritualized exchanges with the specific function of allowing the parties to establish a connection for the first time.
Terms of direct address, too, express and codify social meaning along
the scalar dimensions of power and vicinity, and represent a crucial element
in the intersemiotic mapping exemplified by dubbing, as address systems
vary both cross-linguistically and within speech communities themselves
(on relevant work on Italian in dubbed English films see for instance Pavesi
1996 and Ulrych 1996; on vocatives in film subtitles see Bruti and Perego
2005). Finally, what counts as utterances of phatic communion varies greatly
across social groups and generations and, notably, across cultures (Coupland
and Coupland 1992: 213). Utterances of phatic communion can perform
different functions depending on their position. When they occur in the
opening phase of an exchange they defuse the potential hostility of silence
(e. g. talking about the weather and/or enquiries about health), and have
initiatory and exploratory functions. When used in the closing phase they
typically bring about effects of mitigation (e. g. I must leave) and consolidation (e. g. See you next Saturday) of social relationships.
In our paper, we use the following labels (letters in italics) to identify
the 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,
v > vocatives, e. g. darling, Mr. President, etc.
> leave-takings proper, e. g. good-bye, see you, take care, cheers, farewell,
p > more or less formulaic expressions of phatic communion, e. g. thanking, apologizing, promising, etc.; these also cover expressions such as
how 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 fully
conventional, non-informational interpretation, or a transactional reading. In fact, this very indeterminacy is the key to their social utility (see
Coupland and Coupland 1992: 226). Crucially, their more or less committed status, i. e. commitment to a speakers own factuality (Coupland

Formulae across languages


and Coupland 1992: 213), is often a matter of on-the-ground negotiation by participants [] contingent on local sequential placement in
particular contextualized episodes and on the momentary salience of particular interactional goals. This adds to the importance of the correlation
of these linguistic expressions with sequential positioning in the classification of our data.
Our analysis is organized on the basis of the five linguistic categories
we have outlined, matched with the subsequent three functional parameters (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 with
the sequence initial position, whereas that of Closing typically appears at
the end of an exchange.
Another important factor we have taken into consideration is the medium 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 speech
has been recognized by most scholars working in the field of audiovisual
translation (e. g. Chaume 2001a and 2004a; Pavesi 2006). In his discussion of oralidad prefabricada [prefabricated orality], Chaume (2004a: 169)
explains that film language endeavours to attain a flavour of spontaneity
by adopting certain features of spontaneous speech. An audiovisual text is
subject 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 a
consequence, not all of the typical traits that characterize oral language are
used to the same extent in films. For instance, digressions, redundancies,



anacolutha and hyperbatons, although extremely frequent in spontaneous

speech, are usually avoided in film language as they would not comply
with 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 failure
to comply with them generates tension in interpersonal relations. On the
other hand, they often tend to be scarcely informative. Besides establishing how much space conversational routines are granted in both original
film language and dubbed Italian, our more specific research question is
then 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 recent
British and American films in which conversation plays a central role and
language varies along a large number of sociolinguistic dimensions2:

The English Patient

Oscar and Lucinda
Sliding Doors
Bridget Joness Diary
Love Actually
Green Street Hooligans
Match Point
Becoming Jane
Music and Lyrics

(1996), A. Minghella, USA

(1997), G. Armstrong, UK/USA/Australia
(1998), P. Howitt, UK/USA
(2001), S. Maguire, UK
(2003), R. Curtis, UK/USA
(2005), L. Alexander, UK/USA
(2005), W. Allen, USA/UK/Luxembourg
(2007), J. Jerrold, UK
(2007), M. Lawrence, USA

Our aim was to include several varieties of English in order to achieve a

wide picture of conversational routines across space and time. In the films
we chose for the sample, the characters speak British, American or Australian English with different accents such as an Irish accent or a London
accent. The axis of temporal variation is fictitiously reconstructed in certain costume dramas we included in the corpus (The English Patient, Oscar
and Lucinda, Becoming Jane). In these films, the characters belong to dif2

The films are presented in chronological order of release. In the discussion of

examples they will be referred to by the capitalized initials in square brackets.


Formulae across languages

ferent social classes, and variation of social status is reflected in the use of
a wider range of formulae in different contexts and communicative situations, and in the participants involved. The more recent Match Point focuses particularly on a portrayal of British upper and middle classes, while
Green Street Hooligans deals with a completely different section of the
diastratic dimension. The remaining films in the sample cover several social categories and relationships. Love Actually is a case in point: the various narrative threads make it a suitable vehicle for representing an extensive array of social types and relationships.
In order to better evaluate the findings obtained through an analysis of
translated Italian in dubbing, we have also examined three Italian productions, namely: Lultimo bacio (2001, G. Muccino), Ma che colpa abbiamo
noi (2003, C. Verdone) and Io e Napoleone (2006, P. Virz). We chose films
whose genres and settings can be considered comparable, at least to a certain extent, with those of the films in the main corpus. Of course, a central
concern was to find films which privilege conversation and include different kinds of social interactions3.

5. Discussion of the data

For the sake of illustration, we start with several examples of the application of the labels we used for analysis.
Example (a)
O-g x 2 Tom
O-g + p Toms mother to Tom

Evening all. Hello, Mum.

Hello, sweetie. Very nice to see you.

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



In Example (a), both Evening all and Hello, Mum are O-g (Opening-greeting), addressed to different interlocutors (signalled by x 2). In this case,
the vocatives have not been considered separately, as they appear to be
fully integrated in the greeting formulae. A different case can be seen in
Example (b), where the vocative is more prominent in that it precedes,
and is prosodically separated from, the greeting expression (hence our use
of Opening-vocative + greeting).
Example (b)
O-v + g James to Helen 1

Helen! Hello! []

Example (c)

Very nice to meet you.

How do you do?

Example (c) illustrates a typical exchange of reciprocal introductory formulae, for which we simply used the label for the corresponding macrofunction (I). In other cases, though, the introductory nature of an interaction can be inferred from contextual information and composite sequences
of expressions, as is the case in Example (d).
Example (d)
I-g + p

Hi. Im sorry. Ive You were so great tonight.

Weve met, havent we?

In this example, the protagonists have already met during Alexs singing
performance without being formally introduced, which explains the exchange. The introduction does not employ typical formulae for this function (e. g. nice to meet you); rather, Rhondas turn consists of a greeting
followed by evaluative comments with a phatic function (p stands for utterances of phatic communion), and Alex completes the exchange in the
same vein.


Formulae across languages

Example (e)
(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 expressions of phatic communication (a sort of promise) and a leave-taking formula proper (Bye).
In Example (f ), on the other hand, the linguistic realization of the
closing is entrusted to a vocative, accompanied by the act of bowing.
Example (f )
Mr. Lefroy to Jane

Madam. (leaves)

Finally, in Example (g), we encounter once more a feature we consider to

be a leave-taking formula, although it is not always easy to discriminate
between utterances of phatic communion with a closing function and leavetaking expressions proper. In fact, our list of leave-takings is quite large. In
particular, we have included certain traditional expressions of phatic communion (please go to Section 2.1 in this chapter) as leave-takings (e. g. see
you), due to their frozen identity and their frequency of occurrence at the
very end of interactions.
Example (g)

See you later, Ben!

Ideally, a line between utterances of phatic communion and leave-takings

should be drawn, depending on the degree of fixedness of an expression.
Degree of fixedness can act as an index of grammaticalization status in the
development from a still semantically-pragmatically informed periphrastic expression to a more frozen formula devoid of semantic meaning and
less specific in pragmatic function. However, clear-cut distinctions are, in
actual fact, far from straightforward, since longer closing expressions also
frequently appear as being highly conventionalized in their form-function
pair. In our analysis, we have included these longer expressions in the cat-



egory of leave-takings, e. g. (Ill) talk to you soon/tomorrow, or Ill see you

later/tomorrow. They are prominently used as one block (with minor adjustments) at the very end of conversations (especially on the phone), where
their illocutionary force as promises is backgrounded and a more general
closing function is promoted.
The same rationale motivates our decision to include in the list of
leave-takings fixed or semi-fixed expressions containing motion verbs
(I should go, Im off ), which make the intention of the speaker to leave the
floor explicit, as well as fairly ritualized expressions of good wishes before
parting (take care). By contrast, other expressions of good wishes (good
luck) and thanking have been classified as belonging to the category of
phatic communion, since their association with the closing function/position is less constant and/or not overtly motivated by relevant lexical material. In other words, one typically wishes somebody to take care of themselves before leaving, whereas one can wish somebody good luck any time.
Motion verbs explicitly signal the intention to leave, whereas the same
does not apply to thanking (though this act is often found at the very end
of exchanges)4.
While we do realize that some of the distinctions and classifications
we make in our research can be challenged and improved, which we
hope to do in the future we believe that the set of categories outlined
here represents a reasonable initial benchmark for analysis. Indeed, analysis has highlighted several interesting phenomena which deserve attention
and which will be discussed in what follows. The main trends we have
identified cluster around both qualitative and quantitative types of asymmetry in the mapping of formulae in English and Italian.

5.1 Qualitative asymmetry

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

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


Formulae across languages

Example 1
I-g + p
Chris to Mrs Eastby

Mrs Eastby

Good afternoon. How are you?

Buongiorno, signora.

In Example 1 good afternoon is used in English and buongiorno [good morning] in Italian. This is due to a more precise distinction of the times of
the day in English by comparison with Italian, where buongiorno is often
extended beyond lunch time, alternating with buonasera [good evening] in
certain regional varieties. In Italian, buon pomeriggio [good afternoon] is
much 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 for
Introductory purposes than, for instance, nice to meet you or how do you
do. In Example 2 a similar instance of asymmetry applies to leave-takings, in which the English good night is translated as buonasera [good
evening], because in Italian buona notte [good night] is used only before
going to bed.
Example 2
Chris to Samantha

Good night.

The next set of examples differ from the ones presented above in the sense
that there are more substantial and problematic divergences of form-function pairs in the two languages, due to systemic lexical gaps. Thus, in
Example 3 there is a loss of socio-pragmatic meaning in dubbing, because
of the lack of suitable equivalents for the vocative mate. This is the case for
all the other generic descriptors, e. g. guy, pal, dude, chap, babe, whose
second occurrence in the original is translated via the substantivized quality adjective bello [roughly, beautiful/beauty] in the Italian dub. Also, the
translation of the polifunctional cheers is ambiguous, oscillating between
thanking and Closing, and the repetition of the Italian ciao by itself neutralizes the effect of peer-to-peer male solidarity, which is in fact conveyed
by the more overtly colloquial register of the English turn. The impact of
lip-synch does not seem to be of much relevance here: although Gerrys
face is momentarily in close-up while pronouncing cheers, the characters



face and mouth are hardly visible, as they are in close proximity to, and
turned towards, the phone receiver.
Example 3
(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 is
missing altogether, while Take care, Allen is translated via a different expression, i. e. Divertiti, Allen [Enjoy yourself ]. The Italian counterpart for
take care, i. e. abbi cura di te, would sound inappropriate in this context
given that it is more emotionally loaded and presupposes a longer acquaintance between interlocutors. Consequently, the choice of divertiti
appears to be more in line with both typical Italian usage and the specific
contextual constraints.
Example 4
Sloan to Sophie


to Alex5

Lets get together, ok?

Sentiamoci qualche volta, no?
Take care of yourself.

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 5
the Italian dub proposes a range of translation choices (buonasera, ciao,
salve) for the multifunctional English hello, which is used independently
of the social identity of interlocutors. In Example 6, on the other hand, it
is the dubbed version which uses less varied expressions, thus failing to
signal different forms for different speakers to encode distinct relations
(e. g. in terms of degrees of intimacy, vicinity): ciao for both hi and hello.

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

Formulae across languages


Example 5
PM to elderly woman Hello, does Natalie live here?
Buonasera, Natalie abita qui?
PM to kids
Ah. Hello. Does Natalie live here?
Ah, ciao. Natalie abita qui?
PM to woman
Hello. Sorry to disturb. Does Natalie live here?
Buonasera. Scusi per il disturbo. Natalie abita qui?
PM to Natalies family Ah. Hello. Is er Natalie in?
Ah, salve! Natalie in casa?
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.
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.
Family member
Example 6
Alex to Sophie
to 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 greeting

expression and the vocative used in the Italian dubbed version. This testifies to the more restricted applicability of ciao vs. hello, since ciao hardly
collocates with items presupposing high degrees of social distance, whereas
hello does.
Example 7
PM to Natalie


Hello, Natalie.
Ciao, Natalie.
Hello, David. I mean, Sir. Shit! I cant believe Ive
just said that!
Ciao, David, voglio dire, Signore. Oh cazzo! Ma come
mi venuto in mente!



Conversely, in Example 8 the Italian dub proposes a shift towards a higher

level of formality in the choice of arrivederci [good-bye] for the original
bye-bye. The shift appears to be motivated only in part by contingent reasons linked to the plot of the film and lip synchronization. Chris needs to
conceal 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 the
conversation with Nola, his secret lover. Yet, his in-laws are at a reasonably
secure hearing distance. Maybe his desire to dismiss Nola (and to split up
with her) is what accounts for such an abrupt closure. With respect to lip
synchronization, the rather long arrivederci instead of ciao matches better
the disyllabic structure of bye-bye, although this may not be relevant since
the scene is framed as a medium shot.
Example 8
Nola to Chris
(T) C-


(on the phone) [] Do you miss me?

[] Ti manco?
Ok. Bye-bye.
Ok. Arrivederci.

We now turn to examples which highlight divergences due to the presence

of slang and/or idiolectal forms. The correspondence between English and
Italian is far from straightforward, leading to frequent neutralization in
the Italian dub. A case in point is Example 9, where the evaluative slang
expression wicked is rendered through the neutral greeting ciao.
Example 9




Im Colin, by the way.

Io sono Colin, comunque.
Im Nancy.
Piacere, Nancy.
Wicked. What do you do, Nancy?
Ciao. Che cosa fai, Nancy?

In Example 10, the original and translated versions display a clash in the
register employed; moreover, there is a lack of internal coherence within the
turn in the Italian dub. The English text exhibits forms such as gotta book
and you guys, which signal informality, intimacy and vicinity. The Italian
version 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


Formulae across languages

formal routine for expressing gratitude such as grazie infinite [roughly,

many/heartfelt thanks]. The latter is intended to suggest a high level of
intensity, which in the English original is signalled by thank you so much.
Example 10
Ray to Alex and Sophie

We gotta book. Thank you so much. Looking forward 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 in
the Italian translation.
Example 11
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 aye
aye, an idiolectal feature of the character Pete, is rendered in the Italian
dubbing via the reduplicative ehi ehi, which, to an extent, successfully
reproduces the original greeting in both form and sound. Another option
which is also used is the more neutral ciao. However, such diversification
in dubbing irreparably produces the loss of an important feature which, in
the original, contributes to the description of the character.
Example 12

Aye aye!
Ehi ehi!

We now turn to examples of quantitative asymmetry in the mapping of

formulae in English and Italian.

5.2 Quantitative asymmetry

In this section of our chapter we focus on phenomena of quantitative
imbalance in the mapping of formulae in terms of, on the one hand, omission and condensation, and on the other hand addition and/or minor
substitution as well as correlated explicitation of material in the Italian dub.



Example 13 illustrates omission: the translation for the greeting hello

is missing (for other instances of omission, see Examples 3 and 4 in 5.1).
Example 13
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 the
original to elicit the addressees attention, being eliminated in the Italian
dubbed version on account of the fact that Lucinda is seen from behind
and then she moves towards Oscar. As a consequence, there are no constraints associated with quantitative synchrony in this case. However, the
vocative, although not strictly necessary, serves to confirm Oscars identity, given that Lucinda sees him from a distance. It also has a politeness
dimension associated to it, since the use of personal names brings the cospeakers nearer to each other (cf., among many, Bargiela et al. 2002).
Example 14
Lucinda to Oscar

Mr. Hopkins? Forgive me.


Example 15 is an instance of omission/substitution. In the original soundtrack, Matt is introduced to Steve, who uses a vocative followed by the
informal phatic expression all right, mate, to achieve proximity. In Italian
dub, the vocative Matt is totally obliterated and then repositioned at the
very end of the neutral greeting ciao. This is allowed by the lip synchronization, because of the consonance of the two words Matt and mate.
Example 15
Steve to Matt

Matt. All right, mate!

Ciao, Matt.

Example 16 illustrates substitution. The hi slot is replaced with a vocative

of endearment (tesoro mio [my dear]), thus rendering the Italian dub locally
more explicit in terms of attitudinal overtones, although the phaticity of the
turn is quite prominent, due to the somehow mechanical use of this opening on repeated occasions by the same speaker (for other cases of substitution of routine expressions with vocatives, see for instance Example 1 in 5.1).


Formulae across languages

Example 16
(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 its
dubbed version to diverge both in the number and types of turns allocated
to speakers. This frequently happens in crowded scenes, where characters
do not appear in close-ups and their turns of speech overlap to a great
extent. According to Laviosa-Braithwaite (1998), dubbing often privileges
explicitation, the example below being a perfect illustration of this. In this
example, the act of introducing oneself is more neatly described by a sequence of turns, each of them uttered by one of the participants.
Example 17






> I-g-p Clifton

Happy to finally meet you!

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

E Didi Bermann, il nostro archeologo


Salve, come va?

Our last example in this section is 18, where once again the preference for
explicitation in Italian dubbing is evident and is also allowed by the absence of close-ups on the characters engaged in the talk exchange.
Example 18
Mr. Wisley


Miss Jane Austen.

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

In what follows, we present several different instances of substitution which

bring about more prominent qualitative effects in the Italian dub.



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 with
the onomatopoeic reply of the interlocutor:
Example 19
Carol-Anne meets Colin


Well, step aside, ladies. This ones on me.

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

It should be noted that the close-up of Carol-Anne clearly shows that

there is only a partial lip synchronization, mainly because of the mismatch
in vowel sounds. This is, however, acceptable, given the quickness of the
shot. In this case, the coherence between gesture and speech definitely
prevails over the technical aspect. Example 20, on the other hand, illustrates a mismatch in translation. More specifically, in the original soundtrack the vocative sunshine is used ironically by Pete to address Matt, who
has just woken up, thus subverting its original meaning of endearment. In
the Italian dub this appellative is replaced by Yankee, thus losing the ironic
flavour and adding offensive overtones.
Example 20

Morning, sunshine! How dyou feel?

Buongiorno, Yankee! Come ti senti?

The case in Example 21 is quite interesting, as it shows an example of a

term of endearment that is closely modelled on the original. The expression my sausage is a typical idiolectal term of endearment used by Geoffrey
Clifton towards his wife Catherine, whose literal translation does not sound
particularly natural in spoken Italian. What is more, the closing formula
that follows (I love you), typical in English closings on the phone, is rendered with a structural calque (ti amo tanto [I love you so much]) which is
totally inappropriate in Italian. This case belongs to the phenomenon that
has been called translation routines (among others, by Pavesi 2006: 48


Formulae across languages

49): automatic choices that make the translating process easier and are
usually linked to prefabricated sequences. As is the case here, translation
routines often stem from calques in the source language and tend to establish themselves in usage in the target language.
Example 21
(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, which
complement the qualitative analysis.

5.4 A few quantitative findings

Figure 1 provides a quantitative overview of the various English greetings
in the Openings of the nine films we have analyzed. The most quantitatively prominent form is hello (88 occurrences out of 256), followed by hi
(60), hey (37) and welcome (11 occurrences).
T + it's + Name

T + yeah/yes?

T + Name


W + Dear

Have a good day

Welcome back


Good evening


Good afternoon


Boa Noite



Good morning



Aye aye














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







The more quantitatively prominent combinatory patterns of English expressions in the varying macro-functions of Openings, Introductions and
Closings can be seen in Table 1. Opening patterns are more frequent than
both Closings and Introductions. Quite predictably, the most frequent
patterns of Openings are greetings proper (e. g. hello), while in the case of
Introductions the combinations that are used most involve typical expressions for this function (e. g. nice to meet you). In the case of Closings, however, the linguistic expressions most often used are utterances of phatic
communion. This is quite a surprising finding, given our comprehensive
category of leave-takings proper; the explanation may reside in the constraints associated to film, as we have mentioned in Section 5.
Overall number of
combinations for O: 432

Overall number of
combinations for I: 192

C- -p
Overall number of
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 in

the Italian dubbed versions of the nine films we worked on. Ciao is by
far 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 additions of greetings in the translations where none were present in the source


Formulae across languages

T + Nam e
W + Caro N
T + Sono N


Ci s e i?
Se i arrivato!
Grande !
e hi e hi
Boa noite


Buona giornata
Be ntrovato
Be ntornato
Be nve nuto
Buonas e ra














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 three
original Italian films we analyzed. Interestingly, the most frequent forms
are buongiorno (18 occurrences out of 62), ciao (16), pronto (8) and
buonasera (4 occurrences). This largely complies with findings about the
Italian dub.

T + S?

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 in

further detail. This could be one of the objectives of future research aiming to integrate a qualitative and quantitative approach to the study of
formulae in translation.



6. Conclusions
Greetings and leave-takings are crucial indices of social relationships between characters and their development. Our analysis enables us to conclude that these features are granted significant space both in English film
language and dubbed Italian, hence the importance of a congruent mapping. What is more, greetings and leave-takings are keys to orality in the
Italian dub, as shown by findings which are in line with those obtained
from the analysis of three Italian films. Several relevant issues and trends
in translation have emerged, most importantly the asymmetry of good forms,
the coherence in register across turns and between characters, and peculiar
choices pertaining to idiolectal varieties and connoted slang.
The analysis has also revealed a few aspects which deserve further investigation. In particular, leave-takings include expressions with different
degrees of fixity as well as a vast range of expressions of phatic communion, for which a more refined system of categorization should be used.
Furthermore, the different types of expressions should be analyzed in more
depth, in relation to the so-called translation routines whose uncertain status between translationese and real Italian could be checked in a wider
corpus of Italian films as well as in spontaneous spoken Italian.