Tickling the non-Akan speaker : the subtitling of verbal humour in Akan dramatic discourse
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The paramount aim of this study is threefold: to tease out a number of communicative phenomena in two Akan dramatic discourse which carry humour enjoyed by viewers; to provide theoretical accounts of what make these communicative situations funny; and to examine the subtitles provided for the discourses to determine whether they are likely to evoke the same or similar humorous effects in the target-language viewers. The study does these with data drawn from the Akan movies I Told You So (1970) and Obroni Hiani (2014). It is argued that conversational humour employed in the discourse of, at least, the two Akan movies come in the form of disparaging remarks/putdowns, open expression of Akan taboos, teases/ridicules, hyperbole, stylistic modifications of idioms and proverbs, amongst others. This study employs the traditional tripartite theories of humour (superiority, relief and incongruity) as well as Sperber and Wilson’s relevance theory to account for the humour carried by the dialogue excerpts drawn from the two movies for this study. It is established that the humour carried by some of the excerpts arises out of viewers’ and/or certain characters’ conception of some eminency over another character (especially when the latter displays incompetence at a task), viewers’ sudden release of accumulated nervous energy meant to repress the expression of Akan taboos (when a character in the movie openly talks about a tabooed activity or substance), and viewers’ reaction to a character’s illogical, unexpected behaviour or utterance. Lastly, the study employs Gutt’s (1998, 2000) notion of interpretive resemblance to examine the subtitles provided for the dialogue excerpts drawn for the study, determining the extent to which they succeed at eliciting the same or similar humorous responses from the target-language viewers as intended for the source-language viewers with the original dialogues. It is argued that resemblance of this kind between the original dialogues and the corresponding subtitles is not always possible. The subtitles of the excerpts whose humour is built around unique Akan cultural assumptions and referents tend not to fully resemble its original dialogue in humorous respects.