Formulaicity, an inherent feature of language, may typify film discourse. Imitation of conversation is posited to extend to conversational routines in original fictive orality, whereas the language of dubbing is believed to increase its formulaicity through translational routines, reiterated translation solutions generating recurrent strings in the target texts. Despite the role assigned to formulaicity, few corpus-based investigations have set out to account for the types, frequency and functions of formulas in both original and dubbed audiovisual dialogue. By drawing on the Pavia Corpus of Film Dialogue − a unidirectional English–Italian parallel corpus totalling about 500,000 words − this study analyses a special kind of formulas, English demonstrative clefts, and their formulaic translations. It evaluates how closely film language reproduces these frequent features of conversational formulaicity, and to what extent source-based patterns are resorted to in dubbing. The results show that demonstrative clefts of the type That’s what I see are frequent in Anglophone film language, where they contribute to the naturalness of the register. In the Italian translations, English demonstrative clefts give way to recurring solutions that are calqued on the original triggers, exhibit a degree of fixedness in the target language and contribute to the specificity of dubbed Italian.
Recent research on L2 acquisition has been stressing the potential of audiovisual translation as a tool for boosting foreign language competence. Whereas most studies have concentrated on subtitled input, less attention has been devoted to dubbing, which is nevertheless the main audiovisual translation modality in several countries. Being the outcome of a translation process, dubbed dialogue is subject to translation universals, including simplification, explicitation and standardisation. These strategies may contribute to the greater accessibility of dubbed vis-à-vis original, non-translated products to non-native viewers. With a view to exploring the role of dubbing in ultimately fostering second language acquisition, an empirical study on the comprehension of different types of audiovisual input by learner-viewers was designed. The study moves from the assumption that input comprehension is a necessary prerequisite for acquisition proper and compares the degree of comprehension of dubbed vs. non-translated film scenes among intermediate-level learners of L2 Italian. Quantitatively and qualitatively comparable film scenes were selected and dialogue comprehension was assessed through closed and timed questions administered after exposure to each scene. Findings show that dubbed audiovisual input results in better comprehension than non-translated film dialogue independently of viewers’ L1 and audiovisual texts’ individual features. The study thus paves the way for further research on the acquisitional impact of dubbed dialogue, especially among learners at lower proficiency levels.