Contribution of prosodic and paralinguistic cues to the translation of evidentiary audio recordings

Raymond Chakhachiro


This study examines accuracy in the translation and transcription of evidentiary audio recordings in the Australian context. Verbatim translation requested by crime agencies and courts is investigated and translation and transcription methods are suggested with reference to conversation analysis. The purpose of evidentiary audio recordings dictates a faithful translation; however, the prevalent ‘written to be read’ translation and transcription styles used by crime agencies can jeopardise the output, given the problems created in reflecting the speakers’ intentions, moods, power and attitudes. The credibility of transcripts when tendered in evidence in court hinges on the quality of the translation. In addition to the stylistic accuracy of the translation of speakers’ interactions, the present paper argues that important discursive information exhibited in the suprasegmental features in conversation should be documented on transcripts, including prosodic and paralinguistic elements, such as intonation, timing of responses and volume. When strategically used, these features can help in placing the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, and producing ‘audible’, ‘written to be read as if spoken’ texts.


Evidentiary audio recordings; transcription and translation; conversation analysis.

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