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Here in Forlì, a sleepy town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, a group of scholars are actively involved in investigating what happens to humour once it crosses cultural boundaries and comes up against the problem of changing language. And, as all translation scholars know, changing language is no easy task, especially when it comes to humour.
As for cultural boundaries, we don’t just mean different countries - we stretch the term to include borders such as ethnicity, gender, religion and many other peripheries too. We are interested in all sorts of humour from high flown literary humour to dirty jokes, from schoolchildren’s riddles to political cartoons, from black humour to practical jokes and although we want to see how translators deal with the myriad of problems attached to rendering humour other languages, above all, we explore how end-users perceive humour in a translated form.
Principally we research audiovisual humour, in other words humour produced for the cinema, TV, radio, theatre and the Internet. What we do is examine how audiences perceive such humour when they see and hear it in a translated form. And we do all this through sophisticated empirical research here in our department.