Interpreters, rapport, and the role of familiarity
MetadataShow full item record
Mapson, R. & Major, G. (2021) Interpreters, rapport, and the role of familiarity. Journal of Pragmatics, 176, pp. 63-75.
This paper explores one of the conditions that can foster interpreters’ ability to process meaning: their familiarity with the primary participants. Discussion focuses on how latent networks (Watts, 2003) inform the interpretation of relational work (Locher and Watts, 2005) and rapport management (Spencer-Oatey, 2000/2008). The relationship between familiarity and interpretation of relational activity is illustrated through the juxtaposition of two independent studies. Data in the first study were generated through semi-structured group discussions involving eight experienced British Sign Language/English interpreters to identify contextual influences on their choice of interpreting strategies around im/politeness. The findings from the first study are complemented by an interactional sociolinguistic analysis of relational practice within healthcare. In this second study, observational recordings of two naturally occurring general practice consultations, interpreted between Australian Sign Language and English, were supplemented with reflective interviews with the participants. Familiarity emerged as a strong theme across both studies. Familiarity provides the background knowledge enabling interpreters to better understand both the content and the intent of participants’ language. The knowledge afforded by familiarity reduces interpreters’ cognitive load and may therefore facilitate their greater focus on the relational aspects of the interaction.