School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

Image of Pierre-Alexis Mével

Pierre-Alexis Mével

Assistant Professor in Translation Studies, Faculty of Arts



I am currently working at the University of Nottingham as Lecturer in Translation Studies.

Teaching Summary

Contemporary France (year 1)

Histoire & Mythologies (year 1)

Language and its Uses (year 1)

La Langue française (year 2)

Linguistic Variation in France (year 2)

Theories and Practices of Translation (year 4)

Research Skills (MA)

Research Summary

At the intersection of Translation Studies, Sociolinguistics and Film Studies, my doctoral thesis analysed how textual and audiovisual objects move across borders, and the nature of the shift… read more

Current Research

  • At the intersection of Translation Studies, Sociolinguistics and Film Studies, my doctoral thesis analysed how textual and audiovisual objects move across borders, and the nature of the shift characters' identity undergoes in the process of translation. I examine the translation into French, in the form of subtitles, of a corpus of American films portraying speakers of a marked use of language (African American Vernacular English, henceforth AAVE) that informs character development, and convey powerful social and political traits that are particularly meaningful in the source culture. This raises particular issues relating to the formation of identities, about their cultural porosity, and the transferability of culturally bound features and the nature of their adaptation in another culture. In the process, I am redefining the figure of the translator, who is constantly negotiating with cultures, for instance by associating features of banlieue French (such as verlan) in their subtitles with images of Black America. Although sociolinguistic studies have shown how black youths use specific linguistic characteristics to construct their social identity, the audiovisual translation of vernacular language and the possibilities for language to convey otherness remain under-studied. In this thesis, I show the ways in which these traits are altered (in the etymological sense, "made other/different/foreign") in the process of translation. This case study on the subtitling of AAVE into French, particularly in the context of audiovisual translation which is just coming to the fore of Translation Studies, contributes to broader debates on the translation of sociolinguistic features and suggests ways in which existing subtitling frameworks might be broadened to include cultural and sociolinguistic dimensions, rather than limiting themselves to technical and linguistic considerations.

Future Research

Using a narrative theory framework, this book-length project contributes to both media studies and translation studies by analysing the nexus between cultural identity, globalisation, borders and mobility in a discrete corpus of multilingual films and of their translations. It explores the ambivalent significance of language difference and of its transposition for the French market. While 'globalisation' is a relatively recent term, the worldwide movements of individuals, commercial and artistic goods, and services as well as the international axes of influence it describes have always existed. From its birth at the end of 19th century, cinema spread rapidly to many parts of the globe, emerging both as the 7th art and as a major international industry. It is therefore hardly surprising that the issue of film translation should arise as a preoccupation.

While there is an abundance of literature on the technical and methodological aspects of screen translation, in depth attention has yet to be paid to the cross-cultural dynamics of representations of Otherness. The films under analysis have all enjoyed considerable commercial success, and have been seen by vast numbers of viewers in different countries and languages. This project examines the powerful narratives created in these films and explores the ways in which these narratives are affected by translation. This is particularly relevant for films that portray multiple languages and cultures, the relationship between which may be completely subverted in the translation process.

According to several studies (Diadori, 2003; Heiss, 2004; Baldo, 2009), multilingualism in films is becoming increasingly frequent. It can serve to illustrate problems of communication between individuals, metonymically invoking cultural barriers and challenging the concept of borders. The process of translation involves shifts in the economy of the relationships between characters, and, crucially, cultures, giving rise to a number of different questions:

● From a functional perspective, what are the cultural implications of dubbing or subtitling a particular language in a multilingual film, and what are the consequences of such (potentially subversive) decisions on the way narratives are created?

● In the translated films, a new set of relationships between languages and culture are established. How, then, does the decision to translate or leave untranslated a particular language undermine the relationships established in the original, within the reception context in the target language, and how are narratives affected by the shifts in representations and perspectives?

● Do such changes in the geometry of the narratives affect audiences' ability to suspend their disbelief, and how?

By probing the interplay between the different languages portrayed on screen in each film - whether these languages are 'foreign' or even 'alien' (presented, for example, as extraterrestrial) this project examines translated versions of the films in the corpus for French audiences, and the impact of the translation process on the way narratives are created. While most people are confronted with the effects of translation, no one is immune to representations of Otherness, whether they are on a business trip to Tokyo, lost in the Moroccan desert, or fighting in a galaxy far, far away.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact Us