Observational Studies and Experimental Studies in the Investigation of Conference Interpreting

Daniel Gile
Université Lumière Lyon 2 and ISIT, Paris


In conference interpreting research, empirical investigation can be classified as observational or experimental. The former can be used for exploration, analysis and hypothesis-testing, and is either interactive or non-interactive. Besides its conventional role of hypothesis-testing, the latter can be exploratory. The main methodological problems in both are related to validity and representativeness and to quantification. At this stage, the most important contribution to interpreting research can be expected from observational procedures. Simple descriptive statistics and uncomplicated quantitative processing of the data still have much to offer.

Table of contents

As Translation Studies evolves into an academic (inter)discipline (Snell- Hornby,Pochhacker and Kaindl 1994, Wilss 1996), it has also been migrating [ p. 70 ]from a predominantly 'philosophical' and prescriptive approach towards forms of investigation which come closer to abiding by the norms of research in more established disciplines (see Holmes, Lambert and van den Broeck 1978, Toury 1995). At the same time, there is more empirical research as opposed to essay type reflection, as exemplified inter alia by Tirkkonen-Condit' s regular endeavors in this direction (Tirkkonen-Condit and Condit 1989, Tirkkonen-Condit 1991, Tirkkonen-Condit and Laffling 1993) and by the work on Think- Aloud Protocols spearheaded by German investigators (see Krings 1986, Lörscher 1986, Königs 1987, Kiraly 1995, Wilss 1996)—also see the collection of papers in Meta 41:1 (1996) and Séguinot 1989. While the discipline is maturing, it is still vulnerable to various methodological weaknesses, as discussed in Toury 1991, 1995. Conference interpreting research (hereafter IR) is less mature and may be facing more fundamental questions about its identity and the way ahead (Gile 1995a, Gambier et al. 1997).

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