Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Cognitive Spaces: Expanding Participation Framework by Looking at Signed Language Interpreters' Discourse and Conceptual Blending

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Cognitive Spaces: Expanding Participation Framework by Looking at Signed Language Interpreters' Discourse and Conceptual Blending

Article excerpt


This research study is a result of my continued interest in how American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters use constructed action (CA) and constructed dialogue (CD) when interpreting from English into ASL. Using a theory that is rooted in cognitive linguistics, the conceptual blending theory (Fauconnier & Turner, 1998), CA/CD can be defined as a type of depiction that occurs in a mental space labeled Event Space (Dudis, 2007).

In my previous study, I had found that interpreters who had Deaf parents and identified ASL as their native language produced more instances of CA/CD in their interpretations than interpreters who learned ASL later in life (White Armstrong, 2003). The current study began with questions surrounding how native users and second language users of ASL incorporate CA/CD into their interpretations through the lens of conceptual blending. My findings are somewhat different from my first study with additional information about blending from the framework of conceptual blending.

My initial questions for this research were about finding the possible triggers for the productions of constructed dialogue and constructed action in interpretations into ASL. Additionally I wanted to analyze the similarities and differences between native users and second language users. But, when examining my data, transcribing and coding, I began to look how CA/CD is manifested in ASL interpretations, rather than what triggers it. From this analysis, new questions began to emerge:

1) What is the process of CA/CD in ASL interpretations? Is it the same process as Deaf signers?

2) Is the conceptual blending process different? If so, how?

3) Do interpreters manipulate the same Spaces that are used in ASL constructions produced by Deaf individuals?

4) Is there a difference between the native users and second language users with their productions of CA/CD? And finally,

5) Do interpreters use CA/CD when it is not in the source language?

Constructed action is when an interpreter depicts actions of a scene as if she or some other entity is part of that scene (Metzger, 1995; Winston, 1991, 1992). Comedians are great examples of how CA is used in American English. They are known to depict the actions of others, including inanimate objects and animals. Constructed dialogue, which was originally referred to as reported speech, (Tannen, 1986) is someone incorporates the language of the people being depicted into their own discourse. The conversation(s) can include two or more different people including one's self, inanimate objects, and animals (Metzger, 1995; Roy, 1989; Tannen, 1986).

Constructed action and dialogue are used in spoken languages but are not a part of the grammatical structure or required element of the languages. Constructed action and dialogue were once thought of as an added layer to ASL and not a required or grammatical feature of ASL. They were referred to as discourse strategies that were added to make the language more interesting, more colorful, and more appealing to the audience (Mather, 1999; Roy, 1989; Winston, 2001). However, more recently, CA/CD are described as events of depiction and are required, grammatical components of ASL (Dudis, 2007; Quinto-Pozos, 2007).

Conceptual blending and the notion of mental spaces are rooted in cognitive linguistics. Blending is an idea that theorizes that we can think of concepts--actually, many at a time--and blend them with other concepts (Fauconnier, 1985, 1997; Fauconnier & Turner, 1998).

One mental space that is ubiquitous in ASL is Real Space, which is a conceptualization of the "here-and-now of the immediate environment based on sensory input" (Liddell, 2003, p. 367). It is a mental space that differs from other mental spaces because it is grounded in a real, physical space. Anyone watching a signer conceptualizes the person signing as well as the signer's surrounding space including objects and entities placed within that space (Liddell, 2003). …

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