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А Discourse Approach to Turns

Researchers (Bennett 1981; Edelsky 1981; Murray 1985; Tannen 1984, 1989b) who came after Sacks et al. have pointed out that some of the “rules” postulated in the model are not necessarily the way conversation “typically” works. They argue that there can be more than one speaker at а time and also that speakers begin talking for reasons other than recognition of а turn possibility. Tannen (1989b) has demonstrated repeatedly that many ethnicities in America do not interpret “speaking at the same time” as one speaker interrupting another speaker.

Bennett ( 1981) argues that defining simultaneous talk by describing its form or structure leads to false conclusions because such talk can be understood in contradictory ways in different discourses. overlap, he claims, describes the actual occurrence of two people talking at the same time whereas interruption is an interpretation that conversational participants use to make decisions (and judgments) about rights and obligations within а situation. Tannen (1984), in analyzing а Thanksgiving dinner among friends, found that overlapping speech was both comfortable and well received when used by participants of similar conversational styles.

These participants describe overlapping talk as showing interest and involvement. Tannen ( 1989b) also argues that overlapping speech is often neither intended nor perceived as interruption and that perceived interruptions are often not the fault or intention of а speaker but rather the result of style differences, the interaction of two differing turn-taking systems. The point is that people make determinations about their conversational exchanges, including when to take а turn, based on factors other than syntactic units.

Turns come about as speakers understand the purpose of talking together, their roles and relationships, and how а speech event is emerging in particular and in its relationship to the larger world. o’Connell et al. ( 199o) review turn taking studies based on the Sacks et al. model and agree with sociolinguistic and discourse studies that the Sacks et al. model cannot stand alone, given studies that demonstrate “continuous participation on the part of all the interlocutors” (365). As discourse analysts argue, turn-taking is not а conversational mechanism operating outside of speaker intent, but rather depend on conversational purposes.

They call for context-sensitive approaches for redefining turns, back-channeling, overlap, and interruption that would remain consistent across research projects. This study answers this call to merge the Sacks et al. model with а context-sensitive analysis of interpreted discourse. Turn-taking then is а discourse process which can help us understand how the exchange of messages actually takes place. Turn-taking is also а feature of discourse that allows for both а structural and functional analysis.

In the chapters that follow, І have four goals: (1) to begin outlining the universal elements of an interpreted event; (2) to describe the turn taking elements and process of an interpreted event as а discourse system; (3) to illuminate how this particular event is а process of each participant engaging with others; and (4) how the role of the interpreter is а result of making decisions that are communicative in nature. The Sacks et al. model helps descriptively because it organizes turn taking sequences as they operate within interpreting.

Discourse analysis shows how turns come about through the deliberate, intentional purposes of all three participants. Both of these approaches help an analyst organize and interpret data. Analyzing Interpreted Encounters Describing Interpreting Interpreting has only recently been analyzed in the discourse events where it most frequently occurs, that is, settings which are small, generally private in nature, and in which three or more people come together to accomplish а purpose, а task or а goal while they talk ( Roy 1989a ; Wadensjo 1992, 1998 ; Metzger 1995, 1999 ).

Although there is а call worldwide for interpreters to sort out and label the varieties of this setting (Roberts 1995), taxonomies or categories cannot be helpful until we sort out what interpreted events have in common and what features of those events make them separate. or, until we decide, as Gentile (1995) suggests, “that what we are talking about is simply interpreting” no matter how many people, what type of discourse situation, or what speed of translation is involved (119).

Currently, theorists, analysts, practitioners, and others observe and describe interpreting through their own lenses, be they disciplinary or personal. However, interpreting is а discipline that is and must be connected primarily to language; it will be through the lens of language study that primary elements are most readily identified. Through the lens of language as discourse, aided by models of the interaction of language and social life ( Hymes 1972 ), the multiple relationships between linguistic means and social meaning are brought to light.

Hymes suggested that constructing models of this interaction is an empirical problem which calls for description that is both ethnographic and linguistic. To develop models, Hymes warns, there must be adequate descriptions of interaction, and such “descriptions call for an approach that partly links, but partly cuts across, partly builds between the ordinary practices of the disciplines” (41).

Although Hymes is referring to linguistics, anthropology, and other social sciences, we can extrapolate the warning that there must be adequate descriptions of interpreting and approaches that link, cut across, and build upon other disciplines. This chapter attempts to describe and define some of the basic elements that constitute an interpreted event in ways that begin to meet Hymes’s call. The second part of the chapter explains the procedures used to analyze the interpreted event that is the focus of this study.

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