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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Turn-Taking, Fingerspelling, and Contact in Signed Languages

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talk, hold (in memory) the segment of talk from that speaker, continue interpreting the other speaker, and then produce the ‘held’ talk immediately following the end of the other speaker’s turn” (1993, 350). However, after J.’s utterances, two hearing parents immediately respond (while K. is still talking), and then the interpreter realizes that she cannot deal with all the overlapping talk. She chooses not to warn the chairperson, however, but, instead, signs to the Deaf participants that she cannot interpret, that several participants are all talking at the same time. Two of the Deaf participants react by signing that they don’t understand, but these reactions are not interpreted by the sign-to-voice interpreter, probably because the two Deaf participants had made eye contact with the chairperson, who can understand Flemish Sign Language. The sign-to-voice interpreter also knew the cochairperson’s sign skills and probably decided that this message was one for the chairperson only and that she did not have to interpret it because he could understand Flemish Sign Language. At this point, the chairperson makes everybody stop and allocates the next turn to K.

In this scenario, neither interpreter chose to manage the organization of turn taking. One did not say anything, and the other simply announced that she could not do her job. They obviously chose not to resolve the problem caused by overlap but wanted other people (the Deaf participants, the chairperson) to resolve the problem. Interestingly, this option was not mentioned by Roy (1993), probably because this type of simultaneous talk is possible in multiparty conversations but not in dyadic conversations (such as the one she studied).

In the meeting with one interpreter, many examples could be found of problems caused by overlap (see examples 7, 8, 9, 10). In each instance, the interpreter was still interpreting (mostly from voice-to-sign) when one of the participants (usually one of the Deaf teachers) self-selected. The interpreter resolved these instances of overlap by simply ignoring the overlapping talk and by not interpreting what the self-selected person said or signed. This approach corresponds with Roy’s third option: “The interpreter can ignore the overlapping talk completely” (1993, 350), which results in loss.

Example 7.

G. (Deaf teacher) signs “one socket there one there one” followed by W. (Deaf teacher) signing “there one multiple-socket in-cabinet there,” none of which was interpreted because the interpreter was still interpreting from voice to sign.

Example 8.

H. (Deaf teacher) waves and signs has-to know what to-choose sorry. H. had suddenly realized that the interpreter was still interpreting into Flemish Sign Language and that the interpreter can’t do both, so H. stops signing and does not take the floor. H. does not volunteer this comment again later, either.

Example 9.

Chair: Can you start working on the group, because that seems ehm if it is possible . . . (At the same time, W. [Deaf teacher] waves, points at M. [one of the hearing teachers] and signs)
______________________________________t
say working group deaf teachers would-like this month to-begin / no class / holiday.

(What W. signed was not interpreted because the interpreter had not finished interpreting from voice to sign, but apparently W. was not aware of that because, a little bit further in the meeting, he quite obviously assumes that the others (Deaf and hearing) have taken account of his remark.)


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