Subtitles and line-breaks: Towards improved readability

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Psycholinguistic literature shows that reading is so highly structured and formalized as to make it a routine and automated task. So long as the syntax and lexicon of the text both remain within normal variation, the flow of reading is not interrupted. When accustomed patterns are violated, this produces an immediate and substantial increase in the level of strain placed upon the reader. This paper focuses specifically on the difficulties that film subtitle readers may encounter as a result of arbitrary line-breaks, i.e. text segmentation that does not follow the principal rules of syntax. A qualitative analysis on a varied corpus of film subtitles allowed us to identify instances of arbitrary line-breaks, to comment on them and to formulate hypotheses concerning possible ways to resolve such issues by employing a more suitable target-oriented subtitle layout.


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