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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Toward a Deaf Translation Norm

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One important factor to add is that both Gutt and Sequeiros examine written translation from a RT perspective. In this study, the written English SL is shown to the T/I before broadcasting, but as BSL is an oral language, an editable, written TL cannot be constructed. Any constructions of the TL are used in preparation for the task, and then either a live broadcast or a recorded broadcast takes place. When the TL is broadcast live, the preparation and BSL practice supports the production of the text but cannot remove the performance factor.


The theories previously outlined can be considered within the context of television interpreting. Sperber and Wilson (2002, 14Ė15) provide a cognitive, linguistic way of thinking about the interaction between the T/I and the audience.

In particular, an individual A can often predict:
a. which stimulus in an individual Bís environment is likely to attract Bís attention (i.e., the most
    relevant stimulus in that environment);
b. which background information from Bís memory is likely to be retrieved and used in processing this
    stimulus (i.e., the background information most relevant to processing it);
c. which inferences B is likely to draw (i.e., those inferences which yield enough cognitive benefits for
    Bís attentional resources to remain on the stimulus rather than being diverted to alternative potential
    inputs competing for those resources).
The news broadcasts examined are summary headline news or newsweek review programs totaling 23 minutes, 25 seconds. The summary headlines are translated after the main news has been delivered and occur as a summary of three or four main news stories. Similarly, the newsweek review has the whole program translated, but happens at the end of the week and reviews the main news stories of the week.

The news is subtitled, giving the Deaf audience access to the news stories in English before they see it rendered into BSL. Therefore, the bilingual audience already has some knowledge of the news story before the translation occurs. It is fair for the T/Is to assume their translations may not be the first time the audience has come to know the news story; however, it is the first time the audience has seen the news story in BSL.

Before the translation occurs, the T/Is receive the English script and have some time to prepare how they will approach the translation. For the headlines, in the studio the T/Is also see the videotape footage that has run during the initial broadcast of the story. For the news-week review, the T/Is see the video footage that will be running in the background while they are rendering.

BSL is a visual language and has some nouns and verbs differentiated according to visual motivations (Sutton-Spence and Woll 1999, 164). This builds upon the work of Mandel (1977). Taub (2001) explores these ideas in greater depth in American Sign Language (ASL) and discusses visual motivation in ASL and other signed languages.

[T]he meaning of tree and the associated visual image do not determine the signsí forms, as they are all different Ė but neither are the forms unrelated to the meaning. Instead the forms all bear different types of physical resemblance to the image of a tree. The nature of these forms, given their meaning, is neither arbitrary nor predictable but rather motivated. . . . In using the motivation, I intend that two conditions be met: that one can observe a tendency rather than a strict rule, and that one can attribute the tendency to some reason external to the linguistic system (ibid., 8Ė9).
The videotape footage enables the T/I to select the appropriate, visually motivated, lexical items for the news.

In choosing a visually motivated lexicon, the linguistically encoded information in the script is modified by actual iconography or isomorphism to render the SL into the TL. The choosing of appropriate visually motivated lexicon is not a voluntary decision by the T/I, as often this is merely a disambiguation of a superordinate or polysemic noun into BSL so the TL is factually correct (for example, hot air balloon). The path movements of verbs, however, can be motivated by the desire for naturalness rather than accurate propositional representation.

The limited amount of time for the broadcast maximizes the need for a succinct and relevant TL. Since the news stories recapitulate previously broadcast news items, the T/I is able to select old and/or new information from the SL and the videotape footage, and represent relevant information in the TL to the audience using visually motivated implicature (for example, metaphoric use of space) and explicature (disambiguated nouns and polycomponential verbs [Schembri 2003]), as well as culturally specific contextual assumptions that influence the TL.

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