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American Annals of the Deaf

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From Topic Boundaries to Omission: New Research on Interpretation
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One example of this formulaic repetition is the presenter’s repeated use of rhetorical questions as she discusses negative and positive self-talk. Another is in the story about the three bricklayers where she represents the boy’s question to each bricklayer using exactly the same words. This use of repetition is a rhetorical strategy that involves the listener in the story itself (Mather & Winston, 1995; Metzger, 1995; Roy, 1989; Tannen, 1989).

This repetition also appears in the interpretations. One example can be seen in I-3; it also can be seen in T-3. Although the number of signs, the sign choice, and so forth for the boy’s question are different overall, each iteration of the question in the interpretation is what’s-up, #do? in the form of constructed dialogue. Additional repetition is in the form of the space used: Each question from the boy is directed in the same direction, and each answer is directed back toward the boy. This use of space in repeated utterances reflects the rhetorical repetitions of the source.

Interpreter 2 used this same strategy. In the interpretation, he established the boy and the bricklayers in the same location and repeated the same question every time: what (open hands), ask-to, #do-do 2h. In addition, when the source message finished that brief story and addressed the audience in lines 29–31 (“Now, if this little boy approached you and asked you, ‘What are you doing?’ How would you respond?”), Interpreter 2, shifting from right to center, signed what (open hands), ask-to, #do-do 2h. In T-2, the sign choices more closely represent English, as we would expect, but the symmetry and the repetition remain.


The analysis presented above represents a beginning look at ASL prosody in interpreted and transliterated texts. Prosody has been viewed as an elusive skill, one that is hard to explain and difficult to teach to second-language learners (in ASL-English interpreter education programs). We hope that others will see the benefit in this analysis and continue to examine these complex features. Perhaps one day, interpreter educators can help our students better understand prosody and teach them to produce dynamically equivalent texts that “look like” the ASL of the Deaf community. In this initial report, we have narrowed the focus to a very specific pausing strategy. We have observed significant similarities and differences within and across interpretations and transliterations as well as within the productions of the same person performing those two different tasks.

These observations have just begun to address the questions we asked at the start: How do we teach this? And how do we explain to students what the differences between interpreting and transliterating actually are? We look forward to future research that uses these initial findings to take us where no one has gone before.

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