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The mitigation of face-threatening acts in interpreted interaction : requests and rejections in American Sign Language and English

Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
Author Hoza, Jack Eugene.
ISBN/ISSN 9780493136608
Broad Subject Language and linguistics
Summary Research on communication among American Sign Language (ASL) signers, English speakers, and their bilingual interpreters continues to reveal the sociolinguistic complexity of these face-to-face interactions. This dissertation investigates the domain of face needs andpoliteness, where linguistic and cultural differences intersect in ways that present great difficulty for both novice and expert ASL/English interpreters. Framed within the politeness theory of Brown & Levinson (1987), and using both naturalistic and elicited data, the dissertation presents new findings on the linguistic marking of politeness in ASL, new results on cultural differences in the use of positive and negative politeness strategies, and an elaborated model of the interpreter's task in managing differing politeness norms which will be of use in the training of ASL/English interpreters.

Two specific face-threatening acts (FTAs) are examined: requests and rejections. First, a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) was administered to native ASL signers (n = 7). Results show that a range of politeness strategies are used by these signers, counter to current claims that ASL signers do not mitigate FTAs. In addition, the DCT reveals that specific language---non-manual modifiers (NMMs)---are associated with relative ranking of face-threats, and have specific politeness functions.

Second, six interpreted meetings between Deaf professionals and their hearing supervisors and colleagues were videotaped. Deaf participants in the interpreted meetings consisted of a native ASL signer, a near-native ASL signer, and a late-learner of ASL. The DCT was administered to all of these participants as well.

Data from the interpreted meetings show an interaction between politeness strategies and participant roles. The data show that overlapping talk, secondary activities (e.g. reading or writing), linguistic background, and speech styles affect the interpreter's ability to render appropriate politeness strategies. Finally, the data also show that omission of face-saving strategies may result when interpreters regard the translation target as 'text' rather than interaction. Finally, interpreted interaction may result in additional FTAs not intended by the primary participants. The impact of code-switching, heated discussions, and interpreter-initiated corrections and clarifications all involve potential threats to face involving the interpreter.

Language English
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