Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

CHAPTER 1: A Pragma-Argumentative Approach to Interpreter Training: Switching on the Light in the 'Pragmatic Dark'

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

CHAPTER 1: A Pragma-Argumentative Approach to Interpreter Training: Switching on the Light in the 'Pragmatic Dark'

Article excerpt

As a tutor, whose attainments made the student's way unusually pleasant and profitable, and as an elegant translator who brought something to his work besides mere dictionary knowledge, young Mr. Darnay soon became known and encouraged.

charles dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

1 Pragmatics and Interpreting

Since 'pragmatics does not deal with language as such but with language use' (Cap and Nijakowska 2007, viii), its relevance to interpreting activity is unmistakable. Indeed, interpreting studies have not overlooked pragmatics in their brief but eventful history1 and the study of the pragmatic implications of the interpreting profession now covers a considerable portion of interpretation research and theory (irt).

Research into the pragmatics of interpreting basically revolves around the descriptive analysis of pragmatic shifts and alterations occurring during the passage from the source text (st) to the interpreted text (it). Against the constrained conditions in which the activity takes place, leading interpreters to focus on the st co-text while overlooking its communicative function (Garzone 2000,71), a modification of the pragmatic force of the st has to be considered a price to pay, to a certain extent. In other words, interpreting is a mistake-prone activity: over and above purely linguistic problems, mistakes are often due to interpreters' inability to recognise 'cues to logical/pragmatic scope' (Setton 1999, 259), inevitably leading to the misrepresentation of speakers' intended meanings. The problem is exacerbated in the training setting, where the difficulty in reproducing the intentionality and intensity of sts is even more visible than among professionals (Palazzi 2007, 263), especially because students are still coming to terms with the acquisition of cognitively demanding interpreting skills.

Addressing the pragmatic aspects of interpreting, therefore, entails the acknowledgment of a major fact: pragmatic failure occurs frequently in interpreting and, as in L2 acquisition contexts, it stems from 'the inability to understand what is meant by what is said' (Thomas 1983, 91). However, unlike ordinary conversation, interpreting is an unnatural activity (Riccardi 2005,756) and makes up an area of pragmatic research on its own. Therefore, a few premises should be stated.

Before venturing into the pragmatic implications of interpreting, the scope of inquiry has to be framed, as there are actually various 'kinds' of interpreting taking place within different settings, whose contextual features determine the specific pragmatic implications for the activity. In this respect, the present paper deals with the interpretation of political speeches; the conference setting will be, thus, taken into account (with only occasional reference to media interpreting); simultaneous interpreting will be addressed, since it is the most widely adopted modality for the interpretation of political speeches and the one in which the interpreter's pragmatic competence is probably challenged most, as it is tested under extreme conditions.

Moreover, in the research field of political interpreting, the prominence of argumentation cannot be neglected: since the communicative purpose of political communication is 'the overcoming of a (latent) conflict between different lines of action' (Marzocchi 1997,182), politicians recurrently resort to argumentative devices (Reisigl and Wodak 2009,114) eventually determining the illocutionary and perlocutionary force of speeches. Therefore, interpreters' quest for equivalence of the communicative effect (Viezzi 1999,147) compels them to recognise and reproduce the argumentative techniques adopted by source language (sl) speakers (Marzocchi 1997,184). Yet, although 'argumentation is the dominant mode of discourse in many interpreted situations' (Marzocchi 1997, 182), the application of argumentation theory to interpreting studies is barely charted sea. In this regard, the present paper is an attempt at filling the gap, also considering that argumentation analysis is encompassed in the broader study of text pragmatics (van Eemeren et al. …

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