View Our Catalog

Join Our E-Mail List

What's New

Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

Press Home

From Topic Boundaries to Omission: New Research on Interpretation
Previous Page

Next Page

photo 6.4. Example of extralinguistic pause

Extralinguistic pause. An extralinguistic pause is a pause that is used to show that the signer is thinking, regrouping, checking notes, and so forth (see Photo 6.4).


Interesting differences exist between the transliterations and interpretations in the types of pauses that are used to reflect segment or topic shifts and in the frequency of extralinguistic pauses in the source and target texts. However, these types of pauses occur throughout the targets and are an essential feature. Because our data suggested our primary focus in this first research—an analysis of pauses at topic boundaries—we will describe our data and approach to analysis in the following sections.

Data Choice

We chose to use a set of commercially available videotapes, Living Fully With Interpreting Models (Sign Enhancers, 1994a), and Living Fully With Transliterating Models (Sign Enhancers, 1994b). In selecting this material for our initial research, we considered several factors. First, these materials are commonly available, which means that others reading our comments, analysis, and conclusions are able to review the data and draw their own conclusions about the observations and conclusions drawn from this research. This set of videos provides a series of three nationally recognized, skilled interpreters. Each has an individual style, yet each provides (and is recognized to provide) a “dynamically equivalent” target message (Nida, 1953). In addition, this set of videos provides a rare opportunity to compare the interpretation and transliteration of the same text by the same interpreter. We believe that comparisons of this type can provide valuable information about the processes and enable to viewer to see how these skilled, accomplished interpreters produced a variety of discourse features, especially prosodic features, in two different target forms.

Another reason for selecting this material was because the source text provides a complex discourse structure. From one perspective, it is a simple exhortative text with an intent to inspire the audience to positive rather than negative perspectives. However, a mapping of discourse structures and actual presentation of the text reveals a spiraling and recurring use of prosody and linguistic features to build eloquence and inspire the audience. These features are the result of careful planning, and they can be especially difficult to manage when interpreting or transliterating. An analysis of the target interpretations and transliterations of this text should reveal a similar level of complexity.

Additionally, the source text, being a prepared presentation, tends to have a cognitive or idea load that is denser per thought unit than typical spoken text (Ochs, 1979). It includes features of both spontaneous speech and prepared, written-like materials, which are much more difficult to interpret. Yet, when interpreted effectively (i.e., when a dynamic equivalent is achieved), the interpreter uses discourse features of ASL in the interpretation and those of primarily ASL in the transliteration. Having an understanding of the quantity of ASL prosodic features that are necessary in even the most “English-like” transliteration (when dynamically equivalent) can lead interpreters and interpreter educators to a clearer understanding of the need to first be skilled and knowledgeable about ASL before rendering an effective transliteration. This research will point out whether or not all transliterators, including those working in school systems using English signing, must first know ASL and the ways to show prosody.

Previous Page

Next Page