Skip to the content

Understanding discourse markers in interpreter-mediated police interviews

Gallai, F 2013, Understanding discourse markers in interpreter-mediated police interviews , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

PDF (Front cover and contents)
Download (129kB) | Preview
PDF (Text and appendices)
Download (5MB) | Preview


Despite the growing prevalence of interpreter-mediated police interviews, this area remains widely under-researched as the focus of research on legal interpreting has been the discourse of the courtroom. Scholars have challenged the myth of literalism and demonstrated interpreters’ lack of awareness of pragmatic aspects of language. Working with Goffman’s(1981) participation framework and Sperber & Wilson’s (1995) relevance-theoretic approach to pragmatics, this study builds on previous work on the use of discourse markers(DMs)by interpreters (e.g. Berk-Seligson, 1990; Hale, 1999, 2004)in order to investigate whether interpreters’ treatment of DMs effectively promotes or hinders direct contact between the parties. In particular, its aim is to show how interpreters convey implicatures triggered by a DM in the original utterance in order to match the intention of the speaker, analysing the impact that resulting “shifts in footing” (Wadensjö, 1998) may have on the different stages of the enhanced cognitive interview. My data consists of five police interviews involving four NRPSI-registered interpreters, two language combinations (English-Italian and Portuguese-Italian), and both suspects and a vulnerable victim. Findings show that not only are DMs often omitted, but they are also added in renditions of utterances which do not contain corresponding expressions. While some of these added DMs can be attributable to the interpreter, others must be treated as being attributed to the original speaker in the sense that they give rise to an interpretation of that speaker’s thoughts and thought processes. I show that in a relevance-theoretic framework such additions can be shown to be compatible with the requirement of an invisible nonparticipating interpreter set by Codes of Practice. Since the effectiveness of interrogation is affected by the extent to which interpreters and officers have an understanding of interpreters’ practice in this area, my research suggests the need for a more nuanced conceptualisation of Codes of Practice and extensive training for interpreters and interviewers in sociological and pragmatic aspects of interpreted encounters.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Salama-Carr, M (Supervisor)
Uncontrolled Keywords: discourse marker; relevance; Goffman; police interpreting; legal interpreting; interpreter training; interrogative interviewing; European Union legislation
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: H Kenna
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2014 14:09
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2016 18:14

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year