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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Language and the Law in Deaf Communities

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table i. Number of Appropriate Lexical Items


Miranda Warning Interrogation


1 3 12
2 2 36
3 7 45
Group Average 4 31

Intermediate Interpreters

1 35 115
2 40 125
3 39 111
Group Average 38 117

Advanced Interpreters

1 55 147
2 49 170
3 52 189

Group Average



n u m b e r  o f  s y n t a c t i c  n o n m a n u a l  s i g n a l s  p r o d u c e d

The production of syntactic nonmanual signals also closely correlated with skill level, and, again, the differences between skill level groups were quite striking. Table 2 displays, by skill level, the average number of occurrences of each nonmanual signal. The average of the total number of nonmanual signals produced by each skill level group is also shown. (For the frequency of each nonmanual signal by each interpreter, please see the individual subject score sheets set forth in Appendix D.

The findings displayed above indicate that the beginner interpreters produced no syntactic nonmanual signals during their interpretation of the Miranda warning and a negligible number during their interpretation of the interrogation. Thus, the beginner interpreters produced very few lexical items and even fewer nonmanual signals.

The intermediate interpreters articulated an average of 2.66 syntactic nonmanual signals during the Miranda warning and 57 during the interrogation. The advanced interpreters, however, articulated 6.33 and 76 respectively, an increase over the intermediates of nearly two-and-a-half times during the Miranda warning and a 75 percent increase during the interrogation. Thus, although the intermediate interpreters successfully articulated a great deal more syntactic signals than the beginners, their signed interpretations lacked a significant amount of syntactic information when compared with the advanced interpreters.

Knowing whether a proposition is a statement or a question, a negative statement or an affirmative statement, a hypothetical or a command, etc., affects one’s comprehension of what is being said, and the syntactic signals lacking in the interpretations of the intermediate interpreters had a profound impact on comprehensibility. Consider the difference in meaning if a proposition is not properly negated.

You cannot afford an attorney. vs. You can afford an attorney.

Similarly, consider the effect on meaning if the conditional nonmanual signal is not articulated:

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you at government expense.


You cannot afford an attorney. One will be appointed for you at government expense.

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