International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 7, No 1 (2000)

'Let me put it simply...': the case for a standard translation of the police caution and its explanation

Sonia Russell
Issued Date: 7 Feb 2007


The police caution, in interviews with suspects, is not an isolated linguistic event. Rather, it constitutes a move in a discourse sequence that begins with the tape buzzer and ends at the point when the officer proceeds to the facts of the case. This paper examines the sequence leading up to the caution and the events that follow, including the officer’s explanation of the caution in ‘simple language’. Using tape-recorded data from twenty French interpreter-mediated interviews, it uses interpreters’ apparent difficulties as a lens through which to focus on the linguistic problems of the sequence. It also examines shifts between form-based and meaning-based interpreting, as the interpreter attempts to follow the officer’s ‘simplification’. Finally, it is suggested that a standard translation of the caution should be supplied to all police stations, together with a standard explanation, both in English and foreign languages.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v7i1.26


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