Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Cognitive Literary Science

Edited by Michael Burke and Emily T. Troscianko

Cognitive Literary Science "Brings together researchers in cognitive-scientific fields and with literary backgrounds for a comprehensive look at cognition and literature."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Intonation and Prosodic Structure

By Caroline Féry

Intonation and Prosodic Structure "provides a state-of-the-art survey of intonation and prosodic structure."

Review of  Coordinating Participation in Dialogue Interpreting

Reviewer: Zhiai Liu
Book Title: Coordinating Participation in Dialogue Interpreting
Book Author: Claudio Baraldi Laura Gavioli
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 24.2766

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
The primary focus of this edited volume is to explore the complexity of interaction in dialogue, community or public service interpreting. It consists of an introduction and 12 chapters. The main contributions cover discourse analysis and conversation analysis, sociocultural approaches to interaction, multilingualism and contact linguistics and how to combine studies of interaction with psychological or sociological theories (p.2). Specific attention is given in each chapter to a different aspect of interpreter-mediated interaction with various analytic methods and from a particular perspective (p.xi). Empirical data were collected from naturally-occurring interactions in media, healthcare and legal settings involving interlocutors from different language communities with different forms of talk (pp.17-18).

In the introduction, “Understanding coordination in interpreter-mediated interaction”, the editors Claudio Baraldi and Laura Gavioli point out that the book’s focus is dialogue interpreting. Then, Baraldi and Gavioli lay out Wadensjö’s (1998) concept of coordination as a theoretical basis for analyzing interpreters’ activities and reflecting on the sensitive issue of the interpreter’s role around three main notions: coordination, mediation and participation. This chapter also outlines the book’s organization and provides a brief summary of each chapter. The editors conclude with four areas of future research directions and call for more in-depth reflection on how to integrate social, cultural and cognitive competencies with the current comprehension of the interpreting process (p.17).

Chapter 1, by Helen Tebble, asks the question “Interpreting or interfering?” Instead of producing a simple answer, she first discusses in detail the existing debate among scholars regarding the role of dialogue interpreters. By analyzing the professional role definition in the guidelines of the Code of Ethics of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) and a study of medical interpreting in Australia, Tebble clearly demonstrates how the interpreter coordinates and repairs talk when communication broke down due to human errors. This study makes a clear contribution in distinguishing the metalinguistic function as a means of coordination from intentional interference such as addition or omission initiated by the interpreter.

The concept of participation is at the heart of Chapter 2, “Interpreting participation: Conceptual analysis and illustration of the interpreter’s role in interaction”. Franz Pöchhacker provides a broad theoretical discussion on the interpreter’s role and establishes multi-level frameworks according to the level of the interpreter’s involvement. The author then presents two sets of video-recorded encounters selected from an existing larger corpus data, one from a hospital outpatient department involving a lay interpreter and the other one from an asylum tribunal involving a professional interpreter. This study reveals the complexity of the interpreter’s participation and argues that the interpreter’s participatory role is constrained by institutional and professional requirements at the event level and his or her activities are decided by hyper-textual goals at the utterance level (pp.66-67). Furthermore, the author finds that the professional interpreter tends to be more constrained to the ratified interpreter’s role than the lay interpreter. Finally, Pöchhacker closes this chapter by urging future sociolinguistic research on participation in discourse to a cognitive perspective.

The context of chapter 3, “‘You are not too funny’: Challenging the role of the interpreter on Italian talkshows,” is an Italian interpreter-mediated talkshow, which differs from that of other chapters in the higher level of interpreter’s visibility and involvement. Francesco Straniero Sergio argues that due to the entertaining nature of live shows and the host’s control of the proceedings, the concept of controlling participation is more appropriate for an analysis of the interpreter’s role management than the concept of coordinating understanding. This study demonstrates that the interpreter uses various face-saving techniques including corrections, repair-formulation repetitions, requests for clarification, footing shifts, and acceptability repairs and adopts “a multifarious mediation role” (p.95).

Chapter 4, “Ad hoc interpreting for partially language-proficient patients: Participation in multilingual constellations” by Bernd Meyer, portrays how a patient’s partial command of the host country’s language affects interaction, through two sets of recorded data of doctor-patient consultations assisted by ad hoc interpreters in German hospitals. This chapter attempts to identify “how transparent language constellations shape the participation framework” (p.106) rather than the best way to deal with linguistic problems. Drawing on an observation by Valero-Garcés (2005), the author claims that there are possibilities of shifting between dyadic and triadic and different types of participation may exceed the widely accepted interpreter’s role in this type of interaction.

Utilizing data from healthcare and legal contexts in two Italian cities between 2003 and 2005, Chapter 5, “Code-switching and coordination in interpreter-mediated interaction”, focuses on code-switching (CS) by lay and institutional participants. Laurie Anderson presents one line of research from a pragmatic-cognitive perspective and another from a linguistic monitoring perspective (p.116). Gumperz’s concept of contextualization (1992) is the theoretical foundation. By describing and comparing CS in these two settings, the author shows a connection between CS and participation with theoretical and practical implications for future research and interpreter training. Anderson argues that the coordination difficulties caused by CS require the interpreter to raise their awareness of the flexibility of their participation and to develop their understanding of various participant behaviors in interpreter-mediated interaction to fulfill their role of facilitating participation.

Chapter 6, “Ad hoc interpreting in multilingual work meetings: Who translates for whom” by Véronique Traverso, explores the organization of sequentiality and participation when one participant in multilingual work meetings is not able to speak or understand English. She discusses the interpreter’s role and conversation analysis from a theoretical perspective. By analyzing the interpreting coordination process, collaborative translation is identified as one of the specific characteristics of this type of context (p.166). The author in addition considers that face-work and categorization and the shift to and from translation are two important aspects of the interaction that need more attention.

Ian Mason in chapter 7, “Gaze, positioning and identity in interpreter-mediated dialogues”, argues that gaze direction and other non-verbal signals are highly important for displaying attention (p.178) and managing speaking turns. The study is based on video-recorded immigration interviews. However, due to the difficulties of studying gaze and the complexity of this type of triadic interpreter-mediated interactions, the author has carried out detailed discussion of the arrangement of the research method and has pointed out the unavailability of ideal corpus of data for the time being. After analyzing various functions of gaze in connection with that of other participants, Mason points out his reluctance to assign meanings to gaze in the data due to cultural differences in the speech community. Mason finds that gaze patterns closely connect with participants’ “role and status” and, as a result, imply their “identity and power” (p.178).

Laura Gavioli explores the mediators’ “Minimal responses in interpreter-mediated medical talk” in Chapter 8 and summarizes vital functions of turn management, some kinds of translation coordination, such as displaying understanding and acceptance of translation, suspending or shifting into the next turn, which overall reflects the mediators’ efforts to achieve interactional goals. The author begins with a theoretical discussion of the pragmatic functions and interactional achievements of minimal responses then focuses on the analysis of “yes”, “no”, and other completions and partial repetitions (p.201) in audio-recorded data collected from Italian medical settings. A unique feature of this research is that the mediators involved are not certified interpreters but qualified professionals who have been through certain socio-cultural, communicative and linguistic training (p.204), a specific situation of Italian public service interpreting profession. Reflecting on the complexity of coordinating understanding and participation (p.215), Gavioli argues that the mediators’ minimal responses play important continuing and transmitting functions for regulating turns and coordinating speech. In addition, skills for managing conversation will be valuable for both working interpreters, interpreter trainers and researchers.

Chapter 9, “Mediating assessments in healthcare settings” by Daniela Zorzi, uses a conversation analytic methodology to describe both dyadic and triadic sequences in audio-recorded mediated encounters in the context of Italian general clinics and public hospitals. She examines how doctor-initiated assessment sequences are relevant to negotiating understanding and co-construction of the mediator-identity. This study acknowledges the multiple functions of the interpreter in the interaction such as culture broker, co-diagnostician, co-organizer. Finally, future research on patient-initiated and mediator-initiated assessment sequences is suggested to understand the situation of different mediators’ identities more effectively (p.248).

Recognizing that the concept of illness differs across cultural and language communities (p.252), Claudia V. Angelelli in chapter 10, “Challenges in interpreters’ coordination of the construction of pain,” focuses on the specific case of describing and measuring pain in monolingual and bilingual medical encounters. The author first introduces the disparity between the institutional mandatory numerical pain-rating scale and the patient’s subjective way of communicating pain and points out that cultural and linguistic differences increase the complexity of the situation. Analyzing two examples from a subset of data belonging to a larger corpus of ethnographic study carried out by Angelelli (2004) to explore the role of interpreters in a public hospital in the United States, the author examines how interpreters provide further explanation and co-construct the patients’ answer. In this way, interpreters make the expression of pain from two linguistic communities comprehensible to each other (p.263). Therefore, the finding is that the interpreters function as active participants in the interaction so that cultural mediation is achieved for shared understanding.

Chapter 11, “Cultural brokerage and overcoming communication barriers: A case study from aphasia” by Claire Penn and Jennifer Watermeyer, deals with another interpreter’s challenge, namely aphasic patients’ communication deficiency in combination with cultural and linguistic barriers. The interpreter-mediated encounter presented in this chapter is carefully selected to reflect the general situation of South African medical interpreting. Then the author discusses how Conversation Analysis is particularly helpful in understanding the complex dynamics in such contexts. The interpreter adopts various strategies, especially side conversation to facilitate information flow. This study casts light on the medical interpreter’s role as culture broker to overcome the barriers of culture, worldviews and lifeworld; to assist in establishing trusting relations though collaboration (p.289); and to ensure mutual comprehension of the patient’s lifeworld.

In “Interpreting as dialogic mediation: The relevance of expansions,” Claudio Baraldi uses Baker’s concept of narrative (2006) as the departure point to introduce dialogic mediation as the focus of this final chapter. Taking data from the same study used in chapter 5 by Laurie Anderson, the goal is to discern the pattern of reflective coordination and how it may impact dialogic mediation from various perspectives. The author especially discusses in details how co-authorship, trust and empowerment are achieved by the mediator’s “promotional questions”, multi-part expansions and renditions as formulations. The key findings are: (1) dialogue interpreting promotes the construction of new stories; (2) dialogic mediation is personalized cultural mediation; (3) imperfect interpreting has a positive impact on coordination and communication.

This book is well organized, with a clear focus on the notion of coordination in dialogue interpreting. Every chapter opens with an overview of general goals, central terminologies, issues, implications of the study and context of data; and closes with a summary of the main contents discussed which helps the readers navigate the text. The authors, researchers in this field from all over the world, tackle various aspects of the subject with consistency from one chapter to another, giving the book thematic coherence. Each chapter shows reasonable knowledge of previous research, and provides in-depth data analysis.

However, the book has certain limitations. First, despite the editors’ efforts to gather studies representing a variety of contexts, the majority of authors use data from the healthcare sector, with only three sets from legal settings. Legal interpreting is a vital component of dialogue, community and public service interpreting with many unique characteristics. Therefore, the findings of the chapters in medical contexts may not be generalizable to interpreter-mediated interactions in legal and other contexts. Secondly, chapter 2, 10 and 12 use data from a larger corpus of data, but the authors do not show awareness of the possible limitations of working on a smaller sub-set of data. Finally, all the chapters favor the interpreter’s role as a mediator with a consensus voice. Although the main discussion revolves around the notions of coordination, mediation and participation, other controversial views may also be worth considering for a better understanding of the complexity of the interpreter’s role.

Notwithstanding the above weaknesses, this is generally an interesting and thought-provoking book. It is a merit that it acknowledges the interpreter’s more visible role, and suggests implications for interpreter education and for training institutional professionals working with interpreters. It will be a valuable resource for practicing interpreters, policy makers, interpreter trainers, those who are working with interpreters, and researchers.

Angelelli, Claudia V. (2004). Medical interpreting and cross-cultural communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

AUSIT.(2009). AUSIT Code of Ethics. (Accessed 6 May, 2013).

Baker, Mona. (2006). Translation and conflict. A narrative account. London: Routledge.

Gumperz, John J. (1992). 8 Contextualization and understanding. Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon, 11, 229.

Valero Garces, Carmen. (2005). Doctor-patient consultations in dyadic and triadic exchanges. Interpreting, 7(2), 193-210.

Wadensjö, Cecilia. (1998). Interpreting as interaction. New York: Longman.
Zhiai Liu is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of York with research interest in the training of legal interpreters in the British judicial system. As a working Public Service interpreter, Liu endeavors to explore the interactional and cross-cultural issues of the interpreter-mediated process with the aim of raising general awareness of legal interpreting as a profession.