Who is ‘you’? Polite forms of address and ambiguous participant roles in court interpreting

Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer

This paper investigates the use of forms of address by court interpreters, combining a participation framework approach to dialogue interpreting with a sociolinguistic analysis of intra-speaker variation. Based on transcripts from interpreter-mediated court proceedings in New York City, the paper explores how interpreters respond when the participant status of their target recipients changes from addressee to unaddressed overhearer. The interpreters are found to design their utterances primarily to conform to institutional norms and not to the expectations of target recipients, who rely on politeness features as cues for their participant status. Adding to recent research on discourse processes in dialogue interpreting, the paper explores how the interpreter’s task becomes more complex when more than two primary participants are present.

Table of contents

In recent years, research on dialogue interpreting has increasingly been concerned with the ways in which interpreter-mediated interaction differs from monolingual interaction with respect to discourse processes such as managing turn-taking, establishing reciprocity of understanding, and identifying participant roles (cf. Wadensjö 1998, 2004, Metzger 1999, Roy 2000, Davidson 2002, among others). Drawing in particular on the work of the sociologist Erving Goffman, these studies have contributed to an increased understanding of the interpreter’s role in the interaction, and they have provided a new basis upon which to identify, discuss, and evaluate interpreters’ practices and ideologies.

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