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Interpretation and Meaning

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Abstract:

The article describes and attempts to resolve a problem that arises for interpreters, translators, teachers, linguists, literary critics, and lawyers. Professional interpreters, for example, see themselves as the impartial transmitters of messages. Their dilemma notably arises in legal contexts when judges and prosecutors use language that is technical and belongs to a political system whose traditions are unfamiliar to defendants. In an effort to explain what such concepts as 'habeas corpus' and 'taking the fifth amendment' mean to Spanish-speaking monoglots, for example, interpreters may become independent voices sending a nuanced version of the original message to its recipients. In such cases, and for other reasons, they may breach the principle of impartiality. The dilemma arises through a seeming incompatibility between two principles essential to impartial interpretation: the need neutrally to transmit a message and the need to communicate the content of a message in such a way as to make it comprehensible to an alien auditor. The author argues that these principles are not necessarily inconsistent. Thus whether an interpreter has deviated from the ideal of impartiality can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/002017402760093243

Publication date: 2002-06-01

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