Chapter One of Sign Language Interpreting continued...
banner Research regarding the processes involved in interpretation has focused on input, segmentation of texts, and problems associated with information overload. All of these areas relate to the study of information processing. These studies analyze the nature of the process of interpreting as if interpreters are conduits through which linguistic messages are passed. However, the view of interpreters as neutral conduits has, perhaps, inhibited examination of interpreting as it actually occurs: in sociocultural contexts.

The question of equivalence has been at the heart of the field of translation since it was first born. Even before the birth of Christ , the controversy over literal versus free translation existed. While Aristotle encouraged pursuit of "accurate" translations, Cicero attempted to serve the consumers of his text by making dialect and register choices that matched the needs of his audience. Yet, traditionally, much of the research and discussion regarding translation and interpretation has focused on accuracy and equivalence within the product and has addressed the process as if translators are simply human information-processing machines. In recent years, numerous researchers have stressed the need for research regarding the dynamic process of translation as an interactive communication event (Nida 1964; Anderson 1976; Shuy 1987). Perhaps because of its evolution from the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, and linguistics (Shuy 1990), sociolinguistics is a field uniquely designed to meet this need .

Applied Sociolinguistics: Studies of Translation and Interpretation

Concern regarding social and cultural aspects of translation is not a new phenomenon. Many scholars have attempted to incorporate one or another of the many relevant sociocultural aspects of interaction. For example, some earlier studies have considered situational factors (Richards 1953; Catford 1965), style (Wilss 1977), and cultural issues (Vinay and Darbelnet 1958). Some have even prescribed goals for translators and interpreters that incorporate various sociocultural aspects of discourse. For example, Casagrande (1954) indicates the need for translators to balance the pragmatic, semantic, aesthetic, and cultural equivalencies. Similarly, Newmark (1974, 1981) discusses diverse issues with regard to translation, including register, context, jargon, metaphor, and cultural allusions. Nevertheless, in the search for equivalents these various factors, like pragmatic and referential equivalence, often conflict (Hatim and Mason 1990). It is precisely for this reason that the need for a systematic investigation of such factors exists.

With the merging of several relevant disciplines into a new discipline, sociolinguistics, in the early sixties (Shuy 1990), a more cohesive approach to the study of social and cultural issues in translation and interpretation began. Brislin (1976) suggests that sociolinguistic issues are behind what Seleskovitch (1978) describes as the sense that a text conveys beyond the meaning of the words. Moreover, interpretation is not simply the conveyance of meaning between two languages, but rather, between two languages and the communities and cultures of the people who use them (Pergnier 1978). Nida (1964, 1976) suggests that sociolinguistics can contribute to a systematic analysis of the relevant elements in translated texts, including such features as background information about the originator of the message, the text itself, and the recipient of the text (receptor). He posits that "only a sociolinguistic approach to translation is ultimately valid" (1976, 77).

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