Lexical decisions and related cognitive issues in spoken and signed language interpreting
A case study of Obama’s inaugural address
This study examined omissions, errors, and variability in lexical selection across simultaneous interpretations of President Obama’s 2009 inaugural address, in three spoken languages (French, German, Japanese) and in American Sign Language (ASL). Microanalysis of how information conveyed by 39 source speech lexical items was transferred into the target languages assessed to what extent omissions and errors reflected differences in lexical structure (relative frequency of ready lexical correspondents and of shared cognates between the source and target languages; and, for ASL in particular, size of lexicon compared to English). The highest number of errors and omissions was found in ASL, which has the smallest documented vocabulary, fewest lexical correspondents, and no shared cognates with English. If omission/error rates in interpretation of lexical units are taken as a rough indicator of interpreting difficulty, results suggest that it is more difficult to interpret the speech into Japanese than into French or German and, by the same token, more difficult to interpret it into ASL than into the three spoken languages. These findings are consistent with the idea that language structures impact cognitive load during interpreting, and that interpreting effort increases in relation to the degree of difference between the source and target languages.
Keywords: lexicon, American Sign Language, spoken language, interpreting tactics, cognitive load
Published online: 14 April 2016
Cited by 3 other publications
Abdel Latif, Muhammad M. M.
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