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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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From Topic Boundaries to Omission: New Research on Interpretation
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These pauses occurred at many major segment or topic boundaries throughout the target texts. They less frequently occurred elsewhere, but with one possible exception: They never occurred at nonboundaries. In other words, the interpreters were reliably and regularly recognizing that these units were segments of meaning, or chunks. They appear to be using these boundaries to think or to process the incoming message.[4] Thus, they are using extralinguistic pausing to show where the presenter is changing or shifting topic.

Extralinguistic pausing is a very clear and effective means of indicating chunks. The watcher (receiver of the message) receives information that should allow him or her to understand that one idea or topic is closing and that another is opening. These pauses seem to be long enough to notice without intense concentration, thus making them more easily accessible to the watcher. These extralinguistic pauses are an interesting intrusion of the interpreting process. They are not part of the presenterís source strategy for marking topic boundaries; rather, they seem to reflect the thinking of the interpreter. Nevertheless, they provide a visual break that occurs only at topic boundaries, providing the watcher with a road map of the topics throughout the text. Our emphasis here is that the extralinguistic pauses are additions to the message; however, these additions occur in, and only in, places where major topic boundaries occur in the source text.

One important note is that we did not look for nor did we expect any type of utterance-by-utterance representation of the source. Rather, we looked at the ideas and topics in each chunk and noted when, where, and how the source text shifted as well as when, where, and how the texts reflected these shifts. Our focus, the extralinguistic pause, was not the definitive and only kind of boundary marking shift; we hypothesized that a large majority of our identified boundaries would be reflected in the targets in some way. We also expected some variation, depending on the personís own chunking styles.

p a u s e s   i n   t h e   t r a n s l i t e r a t e d   t e x t s

The major difference in pausing behaviors between the interpreted and transliterated texts was the type of pauses that were used. At the major topic boundaries was where this major difference occurred. Where the interpretations uniformly show extralinguistic pausing at most major boundaries, the transliterations show noticeably fewer extralinguistic pauses. And in contrast to the interpretations, the extralinguistic pauses that did occur in the transliterations were not as uniform. The differences ranged from adequate and expected patterns of pausing and pausing features within and between utterances (by two of the three) to almost none (by one of the three).

The major boundaries were generally reflected with less marked pausing; instead of the frequent use of the extralinguistic pause (handclasp), the boundaries were frequently marked by less noticeable strategies such as filled pauses that took the form of holds on final signs in the segment, prosodic pauses that took the form of torso or head shifting in space, and head nodding. The length of the stop between segments was perceptibly shorter in the transliterations and, at times, was almost imperceptible.


4. Prosodic and filled pauses also occurred throughout all three interpretations. We have not yet analyzed these pauses in detail, but they appear to be the expected ASL pausings that occur within and between utterances.
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