The impact of text segmentation on subtitle reading

Olivia Gerber-Morón, Agnieszka Szarkowska, Bencie Woll

Abstract


Understanding the way people watch subtitled films has become a central concern for subtitling researchers in recent years. Both subtitling scholars and professionals generally believe that in order to reduce cognitive load and enhance readability, line breaks in two-line subtitles should follow syntactic units. However, previous research has been inconclusive as to whether syntactic-based segmentation facilitates comprehension and reduces cognitive load. In this study, we assessed the impact of text segmentation on subtitle processing among different groups of viewers: hearing people with different mother tongues (English, Polish, and Spanish) and deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people with English as a first language. We measured three indicators of cognitive load (difficulty, effort, and frustration) as well as comprehension and eye tracking variables.  Participants watched two video excerpts with syntactically and non-syntactically segmented subtitles. The aim was to determine whether syntactic-based text segmentation as well as the viewers’ linguistic background influence subtitle processing. Our findings show that non-syntactically segmented subtitles induced higher cognitive load, but they did not adversely affect comprehension. The results are discussed in the context of cognitive load, audiovisual translation, and deafness.

Keywords


eye movement; reading; region of interest; subtitling; audiovisual translation; media accessibility; cognitive load; segmentation; line breaks; revisits

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.16910/11.4.2

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