The dialect(ic)s of control and resistance : Intralingual audiovisual translation in Chinese TV drama

Leo Tak-Hung Chan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


There are two types of intralingual translation in contemporary China: diachronic and synchronic. While the former involves rewriting older texts in the modern tongue, the latter involves translation between Putonghua and local/regional Chinese dialects. Two modes of intralingual translation - dubbing and subtitling - will be examined in this article, in terms of their use in TV serials produced in China since the 2000s. The evidence (largely Cantonese dramas in Guangdong) shows that the use of a control-resistance paradigm to understand the relationship between the national language and Chinese dialects is fraught with problems. The paradigm has often been used, albeit in different ways, by researchers of China's central-local relations, scholars of dialect films, and theorists of minority language translation. However, to characterize dubbing into Chinese dialects as "resistance", and subtitling into Putonghua as "control", is nothing less than a simplification of sociolinguistic realities that reveals a lack of awareness of how translation mediates between the different speech varieties in a diglossic society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-109
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number251
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018



  • Dialects
  • Dubbing
  • Intralingual translation
  • National language
  • Subtitling

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