chapter  11
25 Pages

The British Upper Classes

Phonological Fact and Screen Fiction
ByIrene Ranzato

From a sociolinguistic point of view, the generically called upper classes are characterised by their insularity, as their members are a self-recognised group of people who “frequently meet face-to-face in social institutions of their own” (Kroch 1996: 24). The result of this limited accessibility is that although upper-class voices are often unmistakable, they are seldom the focus of linguistic studies: the little research on the subject generally has as its upper limit the upper middle classes (Mesthrie et al. 2005: 104). For what concerns audiovisual translation in particular, the subject has attracted specific interest only recently (Bruti and Vignozzi 2016; Sandrelli 2016). After a definition of the phonological and sociocultural aspects of British upper-class speech, this chapter will offer an evaluation of the way the people belonging to this class are linguistically and culturally portrayed in significant films and TV series of UK and US production, focusing on the function of the characters’ dialogues in the context of the respective narratives. The analysis will also discuss the translation strategies implemented by Italian adapters for dubbing. This contribution will highlight examples of realistic portrayals of upper-class people and of more stereotypical characterisations which put into sharp relief the linguistic, social and cultural nuances at play when this type of character acts and speaks within a context which is alien to him/her in geographical and social terms.