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Interpreter-mediated “paternalistic” interaction in a judge-centered courtroom

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This paper investigates an interpreter’s handling of a distinctive ‘paternalistic’ (following Tates et al. 2002) participation framework in a Belgian criminal court, whereby the defendant is the topic – but not the addressee – of the interaction. The hearing analysed, which was recorded and transcribed, was part of a drugs trial. An experienced court interpreter provided consecutive and whispered interpreting, almost always asymmetrically, so that the French-speaking defendant could follow everything said to/about her in Dutch; the Dutch-speaking bench and counsel listened to the defendant’s French. The paternalistic participation framework seems to prompt various strategies by the interpreter, leading her to disregard major aspects of the code of ethics she works by. First, she sets up a separate participation framework with the defendant as the addressee of the interpretation (the ‘interpreter’s dyad’), systematically using the deictic coordinates of this framework in presenting the court’s interaction. Second, she tends sometimes to position herself in the role of principal, arguably as a result of the dyad arrangement. Finally, though interpretation is required only for the defendant, the latter’s French is occasionally interpreted into Dutch for the court –sometimes at the interpreter’s own initiative, possibly to protect the interests of the defendant in response to a verbal challenge from the judge.

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Keywords: court interpreting; interpreting ethics; paternalistic interaction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 4, 2017

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  • International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting
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