Anna-Lena Nilsson (NO)

Saturday September 13th 2014

15:30 – 16:10       Anna-Lena Nilsson (NO)

“Use of signing space in simultaneous sign language interpretation: marking discourse structure with the body”

A fundamental difference between signed and spoken languages is that in signed languages the signer uses the three dimensional space in front of him/her (signing space) and his/her own body for reference and cohesion. Optimal use of signing space is dependent on the signer’s knowledge of what s/he is going to talk about. In a simultaneous interpreting situation, there is no way the interpreter can know exactly what the speaker will say next. This makes it difficult for an interpreter working simultaneously into a signed language to know how to best structure the discourse.

In the present study, Swedish Sign Language (SSL) interpreters have been filmed while interpreting spoken Swedish monologues into SSL. Their signed language production was analyzed using a model based in Conceptual Blending Theory, focusing on their use of Real Space Blending (Liddell, 2003), and on how they use signing space and their body to mark the discourse structure.

In this presentation, I will show how interpreters whose first language is SSL consistently use specific body movement patterns to mark discourse structure. Despite finding out the discourse content only gradually, and while they are already rendering their interpretation of what has been said so far, these interpreters produce signed discourse that is strikingly similar to spontaneously produced SSL discourse. We will also see that these movement patterns are used even when there are no obvious lexical cues in the source text indicating that e.g. a comparison will be made.

In addition to providing new knowledge regarding use of signing space in signed language interpretation, this presentation also attracts attention to the challenge of how to best train L2 users of signed languages to become skilled interpreters.