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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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One question to investigate is whether this lack of a major visual break as well as the similarity of the filled pausing and prosodic pausing between boundaries and within utterances is salient enough to help watchers follow the larger text structures in transliterated texts. In other words, do all the pauses seem so similar that the watcher cannot tell when a major boundary occurs? Of course, other strategies are used that we have not yet investigated, linguistic choice being one example. For example, if the source text presents a series of facts, then the transliterator may add a sign indicating list at the beginning, number each item, and then sign finish at the end of the series. This production would indicate to the watcher that the topic or list segment were completed, and there would be no need for the addition of a major pause. But the question still to be answered is, How many chunking and prosodic features are needed in a target to make it easily perceptible rather than subtle and more easily missed? Another is, How does “ease of understanding” compare where source and targets are compared?

s i g n i n g   s t y l e s

Signing styles appear to spread across interpretations and transliterations. In those places where the handclasp pause did occur in both interpreted and transliterated forms for each interpreter, those handclasps were similar. For example, the clasp stance of Interpreter 3 in both the interpretation and transliteration showed the same torso, head, and hand positions. This consistency was true of each of the three interpreters. Yet each person was slightly different from the others. Photos 6.25a, b, and c show how this stance varied among the three interpreters.

photo 6.25a                            photo 6.25b               photo 6.25c

This observation begins to touch on the question of signer style, which is another topic about which many interpreting students ask. The ability to identify specific features incorporated in a “style” could lead students to an understanding of their own style and, therefore, to an understanding of what may be missing. Each of the signers frequently used the extralinguistic pause as a discourse strategy, and each included several of the same features in the production of that kind of pause. But each configuration is slightly different. For example, in the photos above, the eye gaze direction, the height of the clasped hands, and the tilt of the torso and head are all unique to each signer.


Although the primary focus of this initial research was on the pausing at major segment boundaries, we also noted some interesting patterns in other areas. Again, these are observations of patterns that have provided us with an even longer list of new research questions. Our comments are not intended to present any final description of these patterns. Additional areas of interest include the following: openings and closings of topics; utterance boundary markings; repetition and reiteration; and involvement strategies such as use of space for comparisons, constructed dialogue, and action. We will briefly describe some of our initial observations in two areas: uses of space and lexical choice for repetition.