Two or three lines: a mixed-methods study on subtitle processing and preferences

Agnieszka Szarkowska, Olivia Gerber-Morón

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The typically recommended maximum number of lines in a subtitle is two. Yet, three-line subtitles are often used in intralingual English-to-English subtitling on television programmes with high information density and fast speech rates. To the best of our knowledge, no prior empirical work has contrasted the processing of three-line with two-line subtitles. In this study, we showed participants one video with two-line subtitles and one with three-line subtitles. We measured the impact of the number of lines on subtitle processing using eye tracking as well as comprehension, cognitive load, enjoyment and preferences. We conducted two experiments with different types of viewers: hearing native speakers of English, Polish and Spanish as well as British hard of hearing and deaf viewers. Three-line subtitles induced higher cognitive load than two-line subtitles. The number of lines did not affect comprehension. Viewers generally preferred two-line over three-line subtitles. The results provide empirical evidence on the processing of two- and three-line subtitles and can be used to inform current subtitling practices.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)144-164
    JournalPerspectives: Studies in Translation Theory and Practice
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


    • audiovisual translation
    • cognitive load
    • eye tracking
    • hearing loss
    • number of lines
    • preferences
    • Subtitling


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