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Can you amuse the audience through an interpreter?
Parliamentary interpreting and humour
In this article, I investigate how interpreters handle humorous utterances during plenary debates of the European Parliament, focusing on the input by one Polish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Janusz Korwin-Mikke. The source speeches (in Polish or English) are analysed bottom-up to identify the types of humour favoured by the speaker. The most frequent ones are irony, ad hominem arguments with an element of ridicule, absurdity, and shifts in register. Subsequently, a pragmatically oriented comparative analysis is conducted to assess whether and how individual instances of humour are transferred by interpreters. Additionally, possible side effects are considered, such as shifts accompanying transferred humour and message incoherence resulting from humour loss. Register humour is typically removed by interpreters. The successful handling of absurdity relies mainly on compression and often fails, while ad hominem and irony appear to be relatively less challenging to interpret. Interestingly, irony is occasionally added by interpreters, either to boost the speaker’s comical intent or to distance themselves from his views.
- 2.Interpreting humour
- 3.The study
- 3.1The corpus
- 3.2Analysing JKM’s humour: Methodology
- 3.3Qualitative analysis
- 3.3.2Ad hominem
- 3.3.4Shifts in register
- 3.4Quantitative analysis
- 4.Discussion and conclusions
Published online: 4 August 2023
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