Pronoun Choice and Participant Roles in Interpreted Police Interviews with Romanian Nationals

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of English Communication and Philos


Research aims
In the UK, public service interpreters are instructed to use the so-called 'first person' or the direct mode of interpreting when translating: 'I'm going to ask you a question', not '(They say) they're going to ask you a question'. However, in practice the demands of a triadic interaction make adherence to this rule at all times virtually impossible. One of the reasons for this is that the primary speakers (the persons being interpreted) themselves do not always address each other, as if the interpreter was not there, but often use the 3rd person pronoun to refer to each other.

This study aims to examine potential reasons why this might be the case, by looking at both the primary speakers' and the interpreters' choice of pronouns, in the particular environment of the investigative police interview. The study will assume two premises:

* A speakers' pronoun choice reflects both what role(s) they see themselves occupying in the conversation, and what role(s) they ascribe to the other participants; and
* These roles are constantly (co)produced during the interaction.

We already know that the presence of the interpreter alters the turn-taking system (Russell 2002) and that they interfere with the deliberate strategies employed by the interviewers (Lai & Mulayim 2014). As Nakane (2009) notices, role shifts during a police interview "may affect the outcome of interactions between the police investigator and the interviewees" (p.2). The study will attempt to answer the following questions:

1. When, why and how do primary participants and interpreters shift pronouns?
2. What effect, if any, does this have on the conversation?
3. And what can these shifts tell us about the role of the interpreter?

The study hopes to provide insights that might inform training for both interpreters and the police officers who work with them. Another possible outcome of this research is a method for 'sanitising' the data obtained from the interviews, so that it may construct a database of interpreted police interviews, which are notoriously hard to get. The ultimate goal is a contribution to a body of knowledge which challenges current prescriptive interpreting norms, so that they may ultimately be revised.

Proposed design/methods
The first stage of data-gathering will consist of obtaining recorded police interviews, in the UK, with Romanian nationals; to this aim, the researcher has already contacted police forces in Scotland. However, permission will also be sought to observe police practices where interpreters are concerned. Insights gained from interviewing both officers and interpreters will be used to support theories and explanations of communicative behaviour observed in the transcripted data. Thus, the proposed study will be qualitative in nature and it will have a strong ethnographic component. It will fit broadly within a discourse analytical tradition, and more narrowly, in the area of forensic linguistics.

Every effort will be made so that the data is appropriately anonymised and stored securely.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2120608 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2018 24/05/2023 Edith Maria Tita