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Sociolinguistic, and Consumer Issues in Interpreting|
“sensible.” But this is articulated in the same manner and at the same location as the ISL sign for sense (i.e., “common sense” or “sensible”). This sign is also a tempting equivalent for the semantic notion of “sense” that we discuss later. In these situations, opinions vary on what an interpreter should do: Llewellyn-Jones (1999) and colleagues suggest that transliteration and fingerspelling may work best; Deaf informants in an Irish sample proposed nonce signs as a viable option (Leeson, 2005b), but Stratiy (2005) rejects these. One problem is that interpreters have no way of guaranteeing that the client will comprehend the TL lexical item that they choose to convey the meaning embedded in the source language (SL). This can lead to a breakdown between the interpreter’s intentionality and the audience’s understanding of the presenter’s point. While this situation may arise in any interpreting setting, a potential for misunderstanding arises when specialist terminology coincides with lexical items that crop up in everyday discourse, where they are used in a different sense. This risk may be greater than is the case when the SL introduces new vocabulary that does not have existing TL collocations or generic uses of the specialist lexical item in the TL (e.g., thematic roles, hyponymy).
The interpreter’s decisions are often guided by the fact that the students will
have encountered a term in the textbook before class or will do so when they
read the relevant chapter after class. Indeed, Sandler (1995, p. 5) made this
point when referring to the interpretation of linguistics: “The material is
academic: the academic register requires use of the English terminology; and the
students have to be able to recognize the English term when they read it.”
Thus, if an example with the verb “hit” was used in class, an ISL interpretation would usually encode information about the fact that the agent (the person doing the hitting) used a fist or a flat hand or held an instrument in a specific way when doing the hitting. Semantic analyses of ISL show that information about the agent is embedded in such a verb, and the path of motion ends at the point in space (the locus) associated with the patient (i.e., the person receiving the action, in this case, the person who is hit). In English, however, while “hit” involves both the agent and the patient of the action, it does not encode information about the instrument. That information must be added by the speaker (e.g., “He hit me with a hammer”). The point is that information is packaged differently in different languages. For interpreters in the semantics classroom, this knowledge must guide all of their decisions. They must reflect consciously and extensively on the metalinguistic aspects of their task and the semantic relations between the SL and the TL.
To avoid misunderstandings, we agreed, in collaboration with the Deaf students, to transliterate the English sentences and then interpret the discussion of the example’s semantic or pragmatic properties in ISL. This maintained the notion that the discussion was about the semantic or pragmatic properties of English, not ISL. This was successful insofar as the students themselves entered into discussions during break times about the relative similarity or difference in semantic and pragmatic encoding in ISL and English.
However, the use of signed English was embedded in the ISL structures and did not in any way replace ISL. That is, when the interpreters used signed English to establish the SL example, they presented the sentence as if it were printed on a page; in other words, they used signing space to position the sentence.2 The interpreters then co-referenced the loci established for each argument in order to demonstrate relationships. This use of locus establishment, co-referencing, and placement is typical of signed language interaction, and it makes sense to maximize the usefulness of these structures, even when talking about another language.