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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Signed Language Interpreting in Brazil
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Photo 7. different

Photo 8. man

Photo 9. person

Photo 10. woman Photo 11. person

Note that since BSL does not have a specific sign for the word gender, several possible means of translating the word include linguistic loan and fingerspelling or the use of BSL man or woman or both of these strategies. In this manner, the interpreters had to very rapidly edit, limit their choices of alternatives, and act.

Proceeding with our examples, we refer to Tiago’s interpretation of the same segment (i.e., the title of the text, “The Construction of the Gender Difference”). Tiago adopts transposition and excludes the word gender, mentioned by the narrator. Instead, he conveys this piece of information directly by signaling different (photo 7), man (photo 8), person (photo 9), woman (photo 10), and person (photo 11). In other words, Tiago does not mention the word gender in his interpretation but substitutes or, rather, unfolds the term into several sequentialized signs. Tiago’s decision is shown in photos 7 through 10.

Transposition is a very common discursive strategy in translation and interpretation and serves to create both involvement with the receiver and cultural proximity. In other words, a direct piece of information is conveyed as in a conversation or an informal dialogue so as to raise interest in the topic being discussed (Aubert, 1998).

Our analysis shows that in order to emphasize and clarify the information being orally transmitted, the women interpreters provided more explicit data (e.g., by contextualizing information and details as a translation modality) than did the men interpreters (explicitation). The men interpreters, in contrast, used transposition most frequently. Tiago, for instance, as illustrated earlier, decided to exclude the word gender and used transposition in his interpretation, privileging a direct definition with man, woman, person, and different.

Contextual information is added by the translator or interpreter either consciously or subconsciously to help the receiver of the message to understand it. From the perspective of translation studies, this is one of the reasons that translated texts tend to be longer than the original texts. In this respect, Aubert (1998) refers to explicitation as a likely universal resource in the linguistic mediation provided by professional and nonprofessional translators. In our study, we also observed that the time needed for the interpretations was longer than the narrated text.

We would like to emphasize that the duration of the interpretations differed according to the gender of the interpreter. Silvana’s and Viviane’s interpretations each lasted 5 minutes and 40 seconds, while Leticia’s ran 5 minutes and 35 seconds. On the other hand, Tiago’s interpretation ran for 5 minutes and 13 seconds, and Marcos’s and Filipe’s each lasted exactly the same time as the text that was narrated in Brazilian Portuguese: 5 minutes and 12 seconds. Thus, the women used more time making their translations than the men did.

Hence, in our study, time constituted an important factor as a gender trait in Brazilian Sign Language. Note that the time was calculated from the beginning of the interpretation in sign language and there was no simultaneous relation to the narrated text.

The results of our data analysis indicate that the interpreted message varied in length according to the gender of the interpreters, which suggests that this may constitute a gender trait. As Cameron explains (in Heberle, 2000), to become a man or a woman, individuals negotiate and accommodate feminine or masculine styles of talk in different communities and historical moments. In our study the difference in the lengths of the interpretations seems to support this hypothesis.

Nevertheless, even though our results show this difference, further research with empirical evidence is needed to substantiate our findings, as other sociocultural factors also influence our forms of talk and the definitions of masculinity and femininity, as gender studies suggest.

The second fragment chosen for analysis and description of the data is based on the interpretation of proper names (Ana, Paulo, Mariana, and Álvaro), which, according to the text, identify a person as a man or a woman. The relevant text segment is the following:

When a child is born, she or he[1] soon receives a name that almost always identifies her or him in relation to biological sex: feminine or masculine. Ana, Paulo, Mariana, or Álvaro, for instance, reveals a person who was born with a specific biological sex, whose characteristics are immutable. (Folha de São Paulo, 2005)
    1. In the original text in Folha de São Paulo, the pronoun used is “she,” as in the Portuguese language “child” is a feminine noun.
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