LINGUIST List 14.1663

Thu Jun 12 2003

Review: Translation: P�chhacker & Shlesinger (2002)

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  1. Wang Shaoxiang, The Interpreting Studies Reader

Message 1: The Interpreting Studies Reader

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 14:19:42 +0000
From: Wang Shaoxiang <>
Subject: The Interpreting Studies Reader

P�chhacker, Franz (2002) The Interpreting Studies Reader, Routledge,
Routledge Language Readers (ed. by Miriam Shlesinger).

Announced at

Wang Shaoxiang, Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian Teachers University


Are Interpreting and Translation Studies one and the same? Or is
Interpreting Studies a mere offshoot and sub-discipline of Translation
Studies? Or is Interpreting Studies a fledgling discipline struggling
to establish itself in the face of the plethora of publications on
Translation Studies? With the representative contributions of
significant research on interpreting pieced together in this single
volume, the Interpreting Studies Reader delivers a clear message:
Interpreting Studies is making strides towards a full-fledged
discipline in its own right.


The clear-cut structure of the book falls into seven distinctive parts:

Part 1 - ''Breaking Ground'' - as its name implies, comprise the
groundbreaking works on conference interpreting, which was largely
confined to the simultaneous mode in the early days, essentially
concerned with the psychological and psycholinguistic issues. While
psychologists took it up as a challenge to the prevailing theories on
the limits of human processing capacity, psycholinguists seized upon
it as a means of testing their hypotheses concerning the role of input
segmentation as well as hesitations and pauses in speech
production. The pioneering works in this part reflect the
methodological dilemmas of experimentation on interpreting in general
and the conceptual complexity of analyzing the interpreter's output
and performance. While grappling for the first time with the
qualitative dimensions of the task, these works paved the way for
future research. (p.28)

If we say Part 1 mainly consists of the works of the
''outsiders''-researchers with a background in psychology and
psycholinguistics, then, in Part 2 - ''Laying Foundations'' - we find
classics of the research literature on conference interpreting
completely from the ''insiders'' - practi-searchers within the field
of interpreting itself - such as Chervnov, Kirchhoff, Seleskovitch and
Lederer. Coming from very different geo-academic traditions, but
essentially sharing a common ground in interpreting and interpreter
training, the four writers draw attention to the role of interpreting
based on linguistics and extra-linguistic background knowledge, and to
the ways in which the underlying meaning, rather than the surface form
of the messages is at the heart of interpreting. (p. 97)

Part 3 - ''Modeling the Process'' - is devoted to the overriding
concern in conference interpreting research: the ''process'' rather
than the ''product''. While focusing on the micro level cognitive
processes ''inside'' the interpreter, the three papers in this part
reflect considerable variety exhibited in interpreting scholars
efforts to construct models for interpreting: B. Moser's
''cognitive-science-based model'' (information-processing model),
Daniel Gile's ''intuition-based didactic model''(Effort Model) and
Robin Setton's ''cognitive-pragmatic analysis'' of the interpreting
process. (pp.144-146)

In Part 4 - ''Broadening the View'' - the works on the
wider-situational, interactional and sociocultural contexts, within
which the activity of interpreting is carried out, are selected to
broaden the analytical focus on interpreting in several different
directions. Anderson views the interpreter's role from the
sociological perspective, Boistra Alexieva provides a communication
typology of interpreting studies and Fernando Poyatos focuses gives
the comprehensive semiotic account of the nonverbal communication
channels in simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.

In Part 5 - ''Observing the Product and its Effects'' - we witness a
shift from the research on the interpreting process to the product and
its effects with the emergence of the significant line of quality- and
product-oriented studies in interpreting. In the three papers of this
part, source speech and the interpreter's rendition are not only
looked as textual entities, but also examined from the advantage
points of discourse studies, text-linguistics and pragmatics.

Part 6 - ''Examining Expectations and Norms'' - explores underlying
patterns of interpreter performance and its reception by the user. The
pioneering study by Anne Schjoldager shows us the powerful
methodological implications of the close linkage between interpreters'
performance norms and their abilities to meet the cognitive processing
requirements of the task at hand in a given situation. By way of
introduction, Ingrid Kurz, ushers in the shift of emphasis from what
interpreters consider good to what interpretation users actually
expect. Angela Collados Ais demonstrates convincingly that the quality
expectations and actual quality assessment are complementary.

Finally, in Part 7, the growing professionalization of interpreting in
non-conference settings is reflected in research aimed at
''(Re)defining the role'' of interpreters in interaction. The three
papers in this part, all of them written by practicing interpreters
and devoted to deontological issues centering on the interpreter's
role, reveal a striking degree of cohesion and common ground, and
clearly point towards increasing synergies within the broader field of
Interpreting Studies.(p.340)

Framing the two dozen papers in these seven thematic parts are two
stand-alone pieces: a seminal essay by Alfred Hermann traces the
history of interpreting in Antiquity and Michale Cronin's projections
pointing to the future direction in interpreting studies. While
pointing out the many historical, political and sociological
implications which have yet to be explored, the paper culminates in an
appeal for a ''cultural turn in Interpreting Studies''.


The main asset of this book is its clear-cut and reader-friendly
structure. Besides a detailed introductory essay reviewing the
evolution of Interpreting Studies in Introduction, each thematic part
begins with a succinct and lucid introduction hinting at what is going
on in certain thematic fields of Interpreting Studies. Taken
separately, they provide a summary of the thematic development in
Interpreting Studies. Considered as a whole, they guide the reader
through the evolution of Interpreting Studies and offer a panoramic
view of the development of the discipline. We have every reason to
believe that, with more endeavors invested in this respect, these
introductions will in themselves make a perfect monograph on the
history of interpreting studies. Moreover, the two stand-alone pieces
framing the volume are original in choice, felicitous in nature and
profound in meaning. While Alfred Herman's paper brings us back to the
early history of interpreting and thus ushers in a historical
perspective, Michael Cronin's points to future research directions
with high potential for the dynamic development of the
discipline. This rather open-ended ending of the book under review
leaves the door wide open to new findings and insights into this
dynamic and fast-growing domain. Furthermore, the brief background
information about the contributors, the suggestions for further
reading and the comprehensive bibliography provide a handy reference
and will entice readers to follow further in this intriguing research.

Another laudable achievement of the book is its interdisciplinary
approach towards the selection of extracts. Interpreting scholars have
stressed time and again that the scientific inquiry into this complex
phenomenon requires the collaboration of researchers in established
disciplines. Interpreting Studies did and will continue to borrow
heavily from and expand its knowledge base with the research findings
from cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics,
discourse analysis, pragmatics, text linguistics, cross-cultural
communication studies etc. With a view to highlighting the
interdisciplinary nature of Interpreting Studies, the editors do not
confine themselves to the inquiries made by practitioner and
researchers. On the contrary, the book, documented in an extensive
way, presents a fairly comprehensive picture of the ''rich and
riveting literature'' on interpreting. The spanning of the multiple
and diverse approaches to interpreting and the interplay of different
voices is fascinating.

While generally speaking I remain enthusiastic about this volume, not
every aspect of the book is without its weaknesses, as any other works
with similar ambitions may be. With great store set by the empirical
and theoretical endeavors, the applied domains of the Interpreting
Studies inevitably suffer or are even unfortunately left out. (Sure
enough, the editors offer apologies for their exclusion.) (pp.10-11)
Nevertheless, interpreting teachers and trainers with a strong
interest in issues of pedagogy will no doubt be disappointed in the
anthology which aspires to cater basically for the needs of
empirically and theoretically minded readership. Given the
ever-increasing market for the teaching and training of interpreters
(The number of candidates sitting for the examination of Certificate
for Translation and Interpreting in 2002 exceeds 14,000 in Shanghai
alone (Sun Wanbiao, 2003)) back here in China, the inclusion of
interpreting pedagogy and syllabus design will have a strong appeal to
the expanding interpreting community. The improved teaching and
training of interpreting, in turn, will also shed interesting light on
the Interpreting Studies and fuel the momentum for further research.

One more thing concerns with to what extent the theoretical
foundations of Translation Studies would apply to research on
interpreting. I wonder if it is a little too arbitrary to say that
''very few authors draw upon the concepts and theories generated by
translation scholars''. Furthermore, the statement does not seem to
be borne out by substantial research. Given the close connection
between Interpreting Studies and Translation Studies, Interpreting
Studies is hardly separately completely from the Translation
Studies. Translation scholars, more often than not, touch upon
Interpreting Studies as a subsection of their works on Translation
Studies (e.g., Gutt, 2000; Hatim, 1997). And it is not that uncommon
to see interpreting scholars to draw new insights from Translation

To sum up, the reader is a comprehensive guide for interpreting
scholars, researchers and practicing interpreters. Compiled with a
historical perspective, I believe, the book is bound to be
instrumental to the establishment of Interpreting Studies as an
academic discipline in its own right, and as such it is worth
revisiting time and again in one's career as a interpreting
scholar. The book is timely and will trigger new research efforts in
Interpreting Studies.


Gutt, Ernst-August. (2000) Translation and Relevance: Cognition and
Context, Manchester & Boston: St. Jerome Publishing.

Hatim, Basi and Mason, Ian. (1997) The Translator as Communicator,
London and New York: Routledge.

Sun Wanbiao. (2003) Translation Course. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign
Language Education Press.


Wang Shaoxiang is a lecturer and doctoral candidate with the Foreign
Languages Institute, Fujian Teachers University, China. His research
interests include translating, interpreting and cultural studies.
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