Oversættelse af slang: En undersøgelse af oversættelsen af amerikansk slang til dansk med udvalgte slangudtryk og undertekster fra The Wire som empirisk materiale

Christine Kjær Andreasen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Translating slang A study of the translation of American slang into Danish with selected slang expressions and subtitles from The Wire as empirical data The objective of the present thesis is to examine the translation of American slang into Danish subtitles. The focus of the thesis is on the various strategies the translator employs when translating individual slang words and phrases into Danish. In this context, the thesis aims at determining the potential challenges involved in the translation of slang. The Wire is an American television series made in the years from 2002 to 2008. The series is an interesting object to study from a linguistic point of view as slang is a central part of the dialogue of the series. Selected American slang expressions in the spoken dialogue of the series and the corresponding Danish subtitles have been collected into a corpus consisting of a total of 257 American slang expressions. This corpus serves as the empirical data of the thesis. In order to fully understand the challenges involved when translating slang, the thesis begins with an introduction to the characteristics of slang as a language variety. This introduction concludes that slang is characterised by being informal. Moreover, slang expressions are used in place of more conventional synonyms belonging to the standard variety of the language. The use of slang expressions indicates a special relationship between the speaker and the interlocutor. In recent literature it is argued that in addition to these characteristics slang also displays linguistic creativity. The introduction also examines the various functions slang expressions serve in communication. The distinction between specific slang and general slang is essential in this connection. Specific slang is primarily used by specific groups within a speech community. These groups are defined by e.g. a common lifestyle or social status diverging from the mainstream society. The primary function of specific slang is to indicate the speaker’s affiliation to the group. General slang is not restricted in use to any one group in society. These expressions serve functions of a more general character, e.g. lowering the formality of communication. Following the introduction, the thesis presents two analyses. The first analysis examines how each of Anne Schjoldager’s (2008) microstrategies is used in connection with the translation of slang expressions in The Wire into Danish subtitles. The analysis concludes that the microstrategy oblique translation is used to translate 28.8% of the total number of slang expressions in the empirical data. The microstrategies neutralisation and deletion are used to translate 28.4% and 12.8% of the total number of slang expressions, respectively. These are the three most employed strategies used to translate the slang expressions in the empirical data. The first analysis shows that a significant challenge posed by the translation of slang expressions in The Wire is related to the formal characteristics of these expressions. Many of the slang expressions are abbreviated forms of words. When translating these expressions, the translator seems to have mistakenly assumed that similar abbreviations exist in the Danish language and thus translated the expressions by the use of direct translation or direct transfer. The choice of these strategies has resulted in unidiomatic or meaningless expressions in the subtitles. The second analysis examines the types of specific slang present in the dialogue of the series. The analysis concludes that specific slang is a dominant type of slang in The Wire as 51.8% of the total number of slang expressions in the empirical data are examples of this type. The most prevailing challenge involved in the translation of specific slang is related to differences in culture and social settings between Denmark and the USA. Because several of these slang expressions are associated with groups specific to American society, e.g. Afro-Americans and the locals of Baltimore, no comparable Danish slang expressions are available to the translator. The results of the two analyses lead to the overall conclusion that a significant challenge met by translators of slang expressions in this television series is posed by slang’s divergence from the standard variety. As most terms in dictionaries belong to the standard variety of the language, the translator has to consult other sources in order to determine the meanings of slang expressions. Finally, the two analyses make it evident that the technical constraints posed by screen translation often limit the possibilities of a satisfactory rendering of slang expressions in the subtitles.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages123