Cognitive spaces: Expanding participation framework by looking at signed language interpreters’ discourse and conceptual blending


  • Julie White Armstrong Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI)


We know from previous research (Wadenjso, 1998; Metzger, 1999; Roy, 2000) that interpreters are active participants within the interpreting event. We know that interpreters interact with the participants, and discourse by negotiating turn-taking, and adjusting the interpretation to meet cultural expectations. According to participation framework, speakers align themselves with the different participants in the communication event, or shift between different types of footing (Goffman, 1981). This framework has also been used to analyze interpreters, (Wadensjo, 1982, 1998; Metzger, 1999; Roy, 2000) to show how interpreters are not neutral participants in the event, but are interacting with many of the demands of the job, one of which is the discourse. In this research, which was an investigation of a monologue-interpreted event, the interpreters align themselves or blend the mental space of the original message with their interpreted message. In other words, the interpreters hold, at the minimum, two frames of footing active, simultaneously, instead of switching between the frames of footing. Cognitive linguistics, more specifically, the conceptual blending theory of Fauconnier & Turner (1996) can help expand the discussion of footing by using the theory of mental spaces (Fauconnier, 1985, 1997; Fauconnier & Turner, 1998). The data come from the discourse of six signed language interpreters who simultaneously interpret a lecture from English to American Sign Language (ASL). The discourse of the six interpreters supports the notion that interpreters blend a space, Narrator Space, with the author of the message. In addition to this space, interpreters also use a newly identified space, Interpreter Space. Interpreter Space is a mental space where the interpreters demonstrate their processes of their interpretations through a variety of linguistic features such as producing constructed action and dialogue in ASL when it was not present in English. In addition to these spaces being identified in the data, all six interpreters seamlessly negotiated and blended several different mental spaces by using the same types of linguistic features that Deaf signers use (i.e. eye gaze, blinking, head tilting/shifting, and body shifting) (Dudis, 1997, Thumann, 2010). This study proposes the notion of using the conceptual blending process to expand the framework of analyzing and teaching interpreting.