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«Pedagogical Considerations of Perspective Coherence Problems in Simultaneous Interpreting as a Result of Linguistic Structure, Illustrated by ...»

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"Pedagogical Considerations of Perspective Coherence Problems in Simultaneous Interpreting

as a Result of Linguistic Structure, Illustrated by German-Korean Examples"

In-Kyoung Ahn

Meta : journal des traducteurs / Meta: Translators' Journal, vol. 50, n° 2, 2005, p. 696-712.

Pour citer cet article, utiliser l'information suivante :

URI: http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/011012ar

DOI: 10.7202/011012ar

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Pour communiquer avec les responsables d'Érudit : info@erudit.org Document téléchargé le 14 May 2016 12:23 696 Meta, L, 2, 2005 Pedagogical Considerations of Perspective Coherence Problems in Simultaneous Interpreting as a Result of Linguistic Structure, Illustrated by German-Korean Examples1 in-kyoung ahn Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea ahnik7741@hanmail.net RÉSUMÉ En interprétation simultanée, si la structure syntaxique de la langue source (LS) et celle de la langue d’arrivée (LA) sont très différentes l’une de l’autre, les interprètes doivent attendre avant de pouvoir reformuler les segments de LS en expressions sensées dans la LA. Il est nécessaire d’adapter la structure de la LA à celle de la LS afin de ne pas augmenter indûment la charge de mémoire et pour minimiser le temps d’attente.

Quoique cette adaptation facilite l’interprétation simultanée, elle intervient sur la cohérence perspective du texte. Découvrir le moment où cette perspective est atteinte et comment atténuer son effet peut aider les interprètes à améliorer leur performance. Cet article analyse les causes des atteintes à la cohérence perspective des énoncés en observant quelques exemples d’interprétation simultanée de l’allemand vers le coréen et propose des moyens pour réduire les problèmes, moyens qui doivent être étudiés et pratiqués avec les étudiants au cours de leur formation à l’interprétation professionnelle.


In simultaneous interpreting, if the syntactic structure of the source language (hereinafter SL) and the target language (hereinafter TL) are very different, interpreters have to wait before being able to reformulate the SL segments into a meaningful utterance in TL.

It is inevitable to adapt the TL structure to that of the SL so as not to unduly increase the memory load and to minimize the pause. While such adaptation facilitates simultaneous interpreting, it results in damaging the perspective coherence of the text. Discovering when such perspective coherence is impaired, and how the problem can be attenuated, will enable interpreters to enhance their performance. This paper analyses the reasons for perspective coherence damage by looking at some examples of German-Korean simultaneous interpreting, and proposes means of reducing the problem which should be sought out and practised with students during interpreter training.

MOTS-CLÉS/KEYWORDS communication between interpreters and end receivers, perspective coherence impairment, text progression, stylistic distortion, information reordering, prosodic devices

1. Simultaneous interpretation and linguistic structure “Simultaneous interpreters have their own language!” This is the comment uttered jokingly by the moderator of a Korean television program regarding the profession of interpreter, a profession so admired by many. The comment actually signified much more than a lighthearted passing comment. Such a comment would only be evoked if something in the interpreter’s rendition sounded strange or remarkable.

Meta, L, 2, 2005 pedagogical considerations of perspective coherence problems 697 Striking characteristics of the language of the interpreter in the booth for the general public might be, for example, certain prosodic features or unusual pauses which would not normally be found in monolingual texts. More attentive listeners would be able to detect unnatural choices in sentence syntax and in the progression of the text. Unatural phenomena occur with particular frequency in instances of simultaneous interpreting between two structurally quite divergent languages, as is the case with German and Korean.

Differences in language structure are primarily related to word order, which is dealt with in syntax, a sub-branch of linguistics, and syntax is often regarded as dealing with surface problems of language. However, word order is not merely a grammatical problem. It is not only related to semantics and the lexicon, but is also a means to process information in a language, and to achieve a particular effect. If the structural differences between the SL and the TT in a simultaneous interpretation are very great, the memory load for the interpreter can become too great and in such cases the word order in the TT must be sacrificed. The word order of the TL must be adapted to that of the SL to some extent. However, this adaptation results in idiosyncrasies in the TT in terms of syntactic, lexical and textual features, which are characteristic of interpreted texts and which represent discrepancies from a semantic, stylistic or textual perspective.

Kautz (2000: 341, 345) pointed out problems in simultaneous interpretation as a result of linguistic structure: he argues that the language structure of ST, as well as speech style and its contents, influences simultaneous interpreting. He maintains that interpreting from a SL with a regular linear structure of S-V-O, such as English and Chinese, is generally easier than interpreting from a SL such as German, which involves a considerable number of inflections and changes in word order. It is therefore said that teaching methodology needs to be different according to language combinations. He also mentions that in relation to different word order and memory load, an interpreter analyzes what comes into his/her ears by mobilizing his/her knowledge stored in long term memory, and stores it in short-term or working memory until s/he identifies meaning that can be reformulated into TT segment.

Moreover, since s/he often has to reverse the order of the meaning unit when reformulating into TL, s/he needs to wait and store the ‘meaning unit’ until it is expressed with appropriate form and logic in the TL. However, as he further points out, the interpreter often cannot wait until a completed meaning unit has been delivered. It will be shown below that the wait for the meaning unit cannot be stretched indefinitely, as the memory load for the interpreter can be overtaxed and in the worst scenario, interpretation will no longer be possible. Alterations to the nuances or breaches of language norms, within acceptable bounds for the listener, are therefore frequently unavoidable, in order to enable simultaneous interpretation to take place at all.

Kalina (1998: 25, 114) also said that the role of linguistic factors cannot be overlooked in interpretation, noting that the language pairs and the direction of interpreting have different influences on the interpreters. She said that different interpreting strategies are therefore employed, depending on whether the word order of the language pair is similar or different.

The proposals made in this paper for overcoming the problems of simultanous interpreting caused by differences in linguistic structure should also be seen as interMeta, L, 2, 2005 preting strategies. German belongs to the Indo-European language family, while Korean is an agglutinative language, which belongs to the Uralic language family.

They have quite different word orders, and the problems which emerge from these language facts continuously pose enormous difficulties for interpreters. The difficulties arise particularly in compound sentences, in prepositional phrases and in all types of attributes which in German follow the expression to which they are attributed. This paper will focus on structurally conditioned problems of this sort which entail impairments to the coherence perspective of the texts and will analyze the reasons for these difficulties and offer some proposals for interpreter training related to these problems. First some background explanations for the concept of coherence in text linguistics will be provided, in order to introduce and define a new concept, e.g. ‘perspective coherence’ of a text.

2. The concept of coherence in text linguistics and interpreting and translation studies In the mid-1960s, text emerged as a new unit of language. Since then, text came to be perceived as a grammatical unit transcending sentences, as an act, and/or a cognitive procedure, and these various aspects of text are the object of research. Whatever the focus of research, textuality, or the question of what it is that makes a text a text has always received much attention, and coherence has been regarded as a key property of textuality. The definition of text as “a sequence of coherent sentences”2 shows the importance of this concept. In other words, the key to a text is coherence. “Coherence is the precondition for a sequence of utterances to be understood as relevant text. ”3 ‘Cohesion’ is sometimes used in parallel with ‘coherence.’ Nowadays, cohesion is generally seen as surface grammatical relevance of text and coherence represents relevance in terms of substance. This distinction is largely influenced by Beaugrand and Dressler (1981). However, these two terms are not consistently used this way, nor have they been used as such from the beginning. Bellert (1970) does not see coherence as a mere intra-textual feature, but as meaning relations based on sense relevance as explicitly expressed in the text, and world knowledge, irrelevant to text, as perceived by the receiver.

On the other hand, Halliday and Hasan (1976) used the term ‘cohesion’ to refer to the relations of meaning that exist within the text, contrary to the current trend.

Brown & Yule (1983) attached importance to standard structures that transcend sentences such as proform and intonation. Petöfi & Sözer (1989) said that coherence is a means of interpreting the relations between events in the text. Much research has been conducted on coherence in Romance and Slavic languages as well,4 but consistency in the use of the term is not found here either. As such, while coherence is the key factor in textuality, different scholars have different understandings and definitions of coherence.

Brinker5 resists the distinction between cohesion and coherence, suggesting an integrated concept of coherence. He argues that distinguishing these two concepts is unnecessary, as there is a close relationship between explicit (morphological-syntactic) forms of coherence, and implicit (semantic-cognitive) forms of coherence. He thus argues for separating the comprehensive concept of coherence into its difference pedagogical considerations of perspective coherence problems 699 aspects such as grammatical/thematic/pragmatic/cognitive coherence, or explicit/ implicit coherence. Böhler (1995: 113f.) also maintained that a distinction between cohesion and coherence is inappropriate as coherence involves the interaction between factors at several levels. Such concepts of coherence are very comprehensive, integrating the two concepts of cohesion and coherence with fuzzy borders between them.6 In interpreting and translation studies, coherence in target texts has on occasion been the object of research. Coherence of the TT can be the criteria against which to measure interpreting quality. Both ST and TT should be considered texts, and coherence is imperative in order to be considered as a text. In this regard, TT produced through interpreting and translation is not different from monolingual text.

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