From ArticleWorld

A subtitle is an on-screen text version of a television program's dialog, or an explanatory title of a written work.

Subtitles are very common in moder world television, either in order to make the program accessible to foreign viewers, or to make it accessible to those with hearing affections.

Television subtitles

The television subtitles are very different from the actual translations of the dialogs. This happens because the viewers is exposed, simultaneously, to the picture, the dialog and the subtitle itself. Therefore, the focus is on the meaning rather than the form, so that it can be watched without confusing the viewer. The procedure is similar when dealing with subtitles in the same language as the dialog: these are often edited, so that the viewer is not confused by the text.

A common dispute is between the partisans of subtitles and those of dubbing. Subtitles have the advantage of preserving the original voice of the actors, and letting sound in its original form, as the difference between the movement of the lips and the overdubbed voice is often disturbing. Dubbing has the advantage of not requiring the viewer to read them, thus allowing them to focus on the image itself. However, it is often a matter of tradition: televisions in Italy, for example, have used dubbing for decades, while those in Japan used subtitles.

Live subtitles are becoming more common nowadays, created by specially trained stenotypists or voice recognition software. Although they are more error-prone than the pre-produced subtitles, they are a great benefit for hearing-disabled viewers.

Subtitles in works of art

Subtitles are also used as explanatory or alternate titles to written works. Some authors have used it humorously, even to ridicule it, as it was a fashion in the Elizabethan era. For example, Shakespeare subtitled Twelfth Night with "What you will", suggesting that the audience can understand whatever they want from the subtitle. They are commonly used in scientific works as well.