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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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Example 10.

Chair: The second year … the expected number of students is 35, it may be a little less or a little more, ehm, the expected number is 35 anyway. I would suggest let us try there also to work with two groups … I see … 35 … (When she says “try,” W. [Deaf teacher]—who will be the second-year teacher, so it is his class she is talking about—signs)
__________ hs                                  __________ hs
big group small group small group big group I cannot
(Again this statement was not interpreted because the interpreter was still busy interpreting from voice to sign.)

Self Selection

A couple of times, speakers self-selected, so the next turn was not allocated by the chairperson in those cases. Signers successfully self-selected only when the person currently speaking or signing directed his or her eye gaze at the potential self-selector and not at the interpreter. Thus, a Deaf person can self-select only when he or she makes eye contact with the current speaker. These instances of self-selection were very similar to the ones found in the all-sign meeting. In all these cases, the gazes of the signers were directed at each other and not at the chairperson or the interpreters. A couple of times in the mixed meeting, the self-selectors suddenly realized that allocation of the next turn is normally done by the chairperson and that, in this type of formal meeting, self-selection is not the norm. So they then checked with the chairperson to see whether they could take the floor. Each time, the chairperson had to take into account that a small time lapse always occurs between what is being signed and the interpretation. He thus had to ask the self-selected signer to wait until the sign-to-voice interpreter had finished (see examples 11 and 12).

Example 11.

While signing, R. (Deaf parent) looks at F. (also Deaf parent) and continues to sign. R. then stops signing and looks at F., thus, selecting the next speaker. F. also looks at R. and starts to sign when suddenly it dawns on him that he has to ask permission from the chairperson, so he looks at the chairperson who signs wait directly to him. When the sign-to-voice interpreter has stopped, then the chairperson nods so F. can start signing.

Example 12.

F. (Deaf parent) is signing and the sign-to-voice interpreter is interpreting his utterances. F. then stops (but the sign-to-voice interpreter has not finished yet) and looks at R. (Deaf parent), thus, selecting him as next speaker. —R. immediately wants to start (signs also, raises finger, looks at chairperson, and waits), but in this case, the voice-to-sign interpreter signs wait because the chairperson is writing something. When the chairperson looks up, he also signs wait to allow the sign-to-voice interpreter to finish talking.

When a hearing participant self-selected, the interpreter had to indicate the self-selection. In the meeting with two interpreters, the voice-to-sign interpreter usually made this indication, certainly with respect to the chairperson who obviously often self-selected. When the chairperson started talking and the interpreter started interpreting, the interpreter, using her thumb, usually pointed over her shoulder at the chairperson (because he sat slightly behind her). Metzger (1999) calls this indicating an “interpreter-generated utterance” with the function of “source attribution” (101):

In monolingual interactive discourse, when an interlocutor begins an utterance, addressees are generally able to determine that a turn has been initiated and who is the source of that turn, in addition to receiving access to the content of the utterance. How this is accomplished in ASL and English discourse is somewhat different, however. When interpreting between two distinct modalities, information about the occurrence and source of an original utterance might not be accessible to participants without an interpreter-generated contribution. Therefore, for ASL-English interpreters, the rendering of all three parts of an utterance is an important consideration. Because this discourse-relevant information is not directly available to participants


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