International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 6, No 1 (1999)

Interpreters' treatment of discourse markers in courtroom questions

Sandra Hale
Issued Date: 7 Mar 2007


Discourse markers such as ‘well’, ‘now’ and ‘see’ are common in everyday oral communication, yet very few speakers are ever aware of their presence in their own speech. Nevertheless, even when these markers carry no propositional content, they are important in portraying a speaker’s intentions and adding tone and force to their utterances. This paper describes the different uses of these discourse markers as found in lawyers’ questions during examination-in-chief and cross-examination. It was found that such markers are used as devices of argumentation and confrontation, mostly initiating disagreements or challenges during cross-examination, and during examination-in-chief, as devices used to maintain control of the flow of information, and to mark progression in the story-line. Having established this, the paper goes on to describe the treatment of such markers by the court interpreter. Interpreters are required to understand the source message fully and to convert it accurately into the other language with the same illocutionary force, portraying the speaker’s original intentions. It was found that interpreters predominantly omitted or mistranslated these markers. Possible reasons for such a tendency and solutions are also presented.

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DOI: 10.1558/sll.1999.6.1.57


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