Line breaks in subtitling: An eye tracking study on viewer preferences
There is a discrepancy between professional subtitling guidelines and how they are implemented in real life. One example of such discrepancy are line breaks: the way the text is divided between the two lines in a subtitle. Although we know from the guidelines how subtitles should look like and from watching subtitled materials how they really look like, little is known about what line breaks viewers would prefer. We examined individual differences in syntactic processing and viewers’ preferences regarding line breaks in various linguistic units, including noun, verb and adjective phrases. We studied people’s eye movements while they were reading pictures with subtitles. We also investigated whether these preferences are affected by hearing status and previous experience with subtitling. Viewers were shown 30 pairs of screenshots with syntactically segmented and non-syntactically segmented subtitles and they were asked to choose which subtitle in each pair was better. We tested 21 English, 26 Spanish and 21 Polish hearing people, and 19 hard of hearing and deaf people from the UK. Our results show that viewers prefer syntactically segmented line breaks. Eye tracking results indicate that linguistic units are processed differently depending on the linguistic category and the viewers’ profile.
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