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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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Uses of Space

We have discussed the prosodic use of space as it occurred in the pausing behaviors above. But another use of space that occurred was linguistic. The data showed patterns of both performatives (constructed action and constructed dialogue) and of comparisons in all of the targets, both interpretations and transliterations.

The story of the bricklayers in the source text generated the use of performatives in both the interpreted and transliterated texts. All used constructed action to represent the boy approaching the brick masons and the interactions that occurred. All used constructed dialogue to show some part of the boy’s questions and the brick masons’ responses. This same strategy was used when presenting the story of the college student and the dean. Constructed action was used to represent the meeting between the student and the dean to discuss the student’s poor grades.

One interesting use of constructed dialogue was in I-2. The presenter talks about how everyone experiences fear in his or her life and offers some positive strategies to control that fear. Interpreter 2 actually places “fear” to his right and interacts with it, as if this abstract concept were an interlocutor in a conversation. For example, the presenter says, “If we could shift our perspective and see fear instead as an ally that is telling us, proceed with caution, but proceed” (line 117–118). Interpreter 2, having previously established fear down and to his right, now interacts, if you will, with this established entity (see Photo 6.26). This strategy is a fascinating approach to an abstract concept. Is this strategy a matter of style on the part of the interpreter, or is it a common practice in ASL? If the latter, how can this strategy be analyzed so students can master the skill?

photo 6.26


This source text provides an unusual opportunity to study the use of formulaic repetition. The presenter uses a formal, repetitive style that emphasizes her points in various sections. Unfortunately, many interpreting students report that they have been taught to avoid repetition, to use it as a “resting spot” or a thinking time, and therefore, they do not produce a dynamically equivalent target. In the six texts that we are studying, each target demonstrates the inclusion of the repetition and provides an excellent opportunity to analyze how this rhetorical discourse strategy can be dynamically reflected in both interpretations and transliterations.

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