L’adattamento multimodale dell’alterità culturale nel discorso umoristico dei meme

Pietro Luigi Iaia


This paper reports on a case study implemented at the University of Salento about the translation of memes, that is to say the ‘highly dynamic’ text types (Leskovec et al. 2009) which have become a ‘mainstream phenomenon’ (Moreau 2018) propagating ‘through the World Wide Web’ (Çalişkan 2012), mostly for humorous purposes, thanks to the increased use of online forums and social networks. This study examines the translation strategies, that were selected by a number of undergraduate students, representing the subject of this research, who were commissioned to adapt four memes characterized by a type of humorous discourse stemming from a culture-bound connotation of ‘otherness’. In particular, the examined jokes rely on the activation of the ‘arousal/safety’ and ‘expected/unexpected’ (Attardo 2001) cognitive clashes by means of a particular multimodal composition. In fact, pictures and verbal elements are arranged into narrative patterns (Kress, van Leeuwen 2006) which are expected to guide the recipients’ reading. Precisely, the written caption at the top of the frame interacts with the image so as to provoke an unexpected, politically-incorrect claim that plays on stereotypical representation of one’s otherness. Then, the resulting ‘arousal’ is mitigated by the description at the bottom of the meme, eventually prompting the addressees’ laughter. The analysis will cover the theoretical and practical dimensions of reformulations, which are divided into two groups: group 1 includes the memes whose translation had to be limited to their linguistic dimension; group 2 includes the memes that had to be translated both visually and verbally. This paper will enquire into the extent to which a multimodal critical analysis of source versions is essential to create pragmalinguistic equivalents that preserve the senders’ illocutionary force and the perlocutionary effects on receivers. Finally, the renderings of the memes from group 2 will also help us to reveal the target-culture peculiarity of the notion of ‘otherness’ that subjects actualize multimodally not only by resorting to the ‘Italians versus Non-Italians’ dichotomy, but also to the ‘Northern-Italy versus Southern-Italy’ clash.

Parole chiave

humorous discourse; memes; cultural otherness; arousal/safety contrast; multimodality

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15162/2704-8659/1134


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