Publication details [#60848]

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Interpreter-mediated interaction is a communicative activity in which two parties need assistance from a third party to communicate, as the two do not share a language in which they are able or willing to communicate directly, and the third party has competence in both. The interpreter’s performance both unites and separates the two primary parties. His intermediary involvement seems to be determined partly by the interpreter’s communicative and interpreting proficiencies (cfr. trained vs. untrained participants), partly by the other participants’ orientation and level of interaction. As an empirical phenomenon, interpreting between different languages has attracted the attention of researchers working from a range of theoretical perspectives. The traditional understanding of ‘interpreting’ orients to the individual interpreter as text producer (e.g. Pöchhacker, 2004). With the growing body of literature exploring naturally occurring interpreter-mediated interaction and applying an interactionistic approach, the understanding of the interpreter’s performance is broadened to involve various activities. Wadensjö (1992, 1998) distinguishes between interpreters’ relaying, or translating, of talk and their coordinating of the talking in interaction. Roy (2000) writes about the latter as the interpreter’s management of the discourse flow. The basic unit of study in research applying this view is often not the individual interpreter, but rather the shared communicative event regarded as a situated system of activity (Goffman 1961), labeled a communicative pas de trios by Wadensjö (1998,12). Interpreting, seen as an empirical field, can be loosely sorted into conference interpreting and dialogue interpreting, or interpreting in face-to-face interaction. In the English-language literature exploring and explaining interpreter-mediated face-to-face interaction, one finds several terms used more or less synonymously, such as community interpreting, public service interpreting or PSI, liaison interpreting and dialogue interpreting The terms stem from various traditions. The duty of the public service interpreter can be broadly defined as accurately and impartially interpreting the primary parties’ talk. Obviously, real-life interpreter-mediated interaction does not and cannot always and in all details correspond to the ideal, and for various reasons. First of all, the ideal is not detailed. Second, to participants in interpreter-mediated interaction, the ownership of talk is inherently non-transparent and blurred. In recent decades, quite a few micro-explorations of naturally occurring interpreter-mediated interaction (e.g Wadensjö 1992, 1998, 2000, Merlino 2012; Davitti 2013; Licoppe and Vernier 2013; Gallez and Maryns 2014) have dispelled the everyday image of the interpreter as someone involved only in translating messages from one language to another and generated new knowledge about this communicative activity. Exploring its dynamics, studies have demonstrated that interpreters’ performance is structured by their understanding of the situation, the ongoing activity and its logic, as well as by challenges posed by the task of translation, participants’ co-presence (with the interpreter on-site and/or online), participants’ involvement in and production of talk, the character of the interpreter’s assignment, and the interpreter’s ability to cope in practice. This is where language proficiencies (in two languages), factual knowledge, command of interpreting techniques for memorizing and producing talk, grasp of flexible listening, and ability to manage the discourse flow come into play. Also the primary participants’ attitudes, access to each other’s languages, and understanding of their responsibilities as conversational partners, both vis-à-vis one another and vis-à-vis the interpreter, determine how interaction unfolds. In bi- and multilingual encounters where nobody is assigned as interpreter, participants may sense the occasional lack of shared understanding and volunteer interpreting ad hoc. There is some research on the micro-organization of such encounters (e.g. Markaki et al. 2014; Janson and Wadensjö 2015/forthcoming), but this largely remains to be explored. As mentioned above, research on interpreted discourse has traditionally emphasized interpreting as the individual interpreter’s production of talk, in terms of words spoken, which simultaneously tends to imply a focus on the primary participants’ talk as text production. However, an individual’s social identities are communicated, projected and formed on the basis not just of what people say but also of how they talk. In interpreter-mediated interaction, the participants have limited access to each other’s contextualization cues (Gumperz 1992) and hence to how layers of the communicative resources applied fit together to form social identities. This makes it all the more interesting and urgent to explore how, in interaction, the presentation of the primary parties’ selves is inflicted, as it were, by the interpreter’s presentation of them. Berk-Seligson’s The Bilingual Courtroom from 1990 (a second revised edition was published in 2000) is a groundbreaking study exploring this issue. As with monolingual spoken interaction, also interpreter-mediated interaction in face-to-face encounters involves false starts, hesitation markers, self-interruptions, changes in stress and pitch, marked pauses, and so forth, features that are not necessarily (intentional) contributions to the ongoing conversation but rather communicative resources that can be made relevant in order to characterize talk and the speaking individuals. More recent studies of interpreter-mediated courtroom interaction (Gallez 2014; Gallez and Maryns 2014; Angemeyer 2015) pay close attention to this. Moreover, following an interactionistic approach, in spontaneous talk-in-interaction, utterances feed on each other as interaction unfolds, and are therefore, to some extent, co-produced. Hence, spontaneous interpreter-mediated interaction does not self-evidently lend itself to be explored by comparing utterances that can unambiguously and exclusively be ascribed to the one or the other individual producer. However much debated (e.g. Chesterman 1997), the conventional units of interest in translation studies, a research area to which studies of interpreter-mediated interaction are often sorted, are source texts and target texts. Arranging interpreter-mediated discourse as text units – that is, source texts and target texts – implies that a text-oriented, monologizing view of discourse must be applied. This is not as farfetched as it may seem from an interactionistic point of view, given that interpreters do in practice apply a text-oriented view of discourse, at least to some extent. They tend in varying degrees to relate to primary parties’ talk as textual units, as it were, and simultaneously as verbal manifestations of ongoing communicative activities and ongoing communicative projects. Hence, interpreting can be seen as a text-oriented, monologizing activity imbedded in a dialogically organized situated social activity (Wadensjö 2004; for a comprehensive discussion on dialogism, see e.g.Linell 2009). This would motivate studying interpreter-mediated interaction by applying at least two different and complementary approaches: talk-as-text and talk-as-activity (Wadensjö 1998: 21ff.). Obviously, talk is only one layer within a complex system of communicative resources that are made relevant in interpreter-mediated interaction. The work of such features as gestures, facial expressions, gaze, head movements, bodily orientation and the use of physical objects accompanying talk in these kinds of encounters still need to be systematically explored. Studies by Pasquandrea (2011), Merlino (2012) and Davitti (2013) are pioneering and promising exceptions.