Chapter published in:Linking up with Video: Perspectives on interpreting practice and research
Edited by Heidi Salaets and Geert Brône
[Benjamins Translation Library 149] 2020
► pp. 151–180
Chapter 6Gesture functions and gestural style in simultaneous interpreting
In recent decades, the advent of affordable digital video-recording technology and freely downloadable specialised software for storing, viewing, editing, and annotating video and audio has contributed to a reassessment of the importance of the relation between the body, language, and communication in a variety of scientific domains, such as psychology, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, cognitive sciences and several others (Müller et al 2013, 2014). One of the consequences has also been the emergence of a new interdiscipline – Gesture Studies – entirely devoted to the investigation of the gestural modality in human interaction. However, while gesture and its relation to speech have been examined in face-to-face conversations, oral narratives, public speaking, task-based discourse, as well as other types of communicative situations, only a handful of studies to date have documented, analysed and described the range and functions of the gestures produced by conference interpreters in the booth. One of the possible reasons for this lack of attention to the body in interpreting has to do with the emphasis on decontextualised cognitive processes in the simultaneous interpreting (SI) mode, which dominated the academic field of conference interpreting research since its beginning in the 1950s until the mid-1990s (Diriker 2004: 7; Gile 1998: 70; Pöchhacker 1995: 33). In addition, the historical shift from consecutive to simultaneous interpreting in conference settings and the now more generalised use of remote interpreting resulted in a removal of the interpreter’s body from the public eye. All this, coupled with the still prevalent notion that simultaneous interpreting (SI) is an essentially verbal and monologic endeavour, as well as the difficulty in finding interpreters willing to be filmed and/or securing permission for filming, led to a dearth of multimodal data in Conference Interpreting Research. The present volume constitutes a first clear attempt at redressing this imbalance by ‘linking up with video’, while this specific chapter hopes to start filling this gap by contributing to a better understanding of the role played by gesture in SI discourse and by introducing the reader to a qualitative microanalytical approach to gestural behaviour that may be applied to the study of other modes of interpreting.After defining gesture and its structural properties within the framework of an integrated multimodal view of language and communication and introducing some working concepts from the field of Gesture Studies, the chapter presents a video-based quasi-experimental study with four professional conference interpreters working simultaneously from English into European Portuguese (henceforth ‘Portuguese’). The study constitutes the first part of a larger research project which explores gesture production in SI by triangulating the data, methods and results from the open quasi-experiment described here, an observational field study with the same subjects, and in-depth semi-structured interviews with a larger number of interpreters. Due to space limitations, however, this chapter will only cover the first investigation. The findings offer an insight into the rich range of gestures deployed in the booth and shed some light on the multimodal nature of meaning-making in simultaneous interpreting.
- 1.What is gesture?
- 1.1Dimensions of gesture use
- 1.2The structural properties of gesture
- 1.3Segmenting gesture
- 2.Exploring gesture functions in SI
- 2.1Open experiment
- 2.1.1Interpreters, source speeches and setup
- 2.1.2Objectives and data treatment
- 2.2.1Quantitative analysis
- 2.2.2Discussion of the quantitative results
- 2.2.3Interpreters’ referential gestures
- 2.2.4Why did interpreters gesture more in the second speech?
- 2.2.5Qualitative analysis
- 2.2.6Pragmatic gestures
- 220.127.116.11Example of gestures accompanying a repair
- 18.104.22.168Gestures with a cohesive function
- 2.2.7Descriptive gestures
- 2.2.8Gestural mimicry
- 2.1Open experiment
- 3.Conclusion: Gestural style in simultaneous interpreting
Published online: 13 January 2020
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