Paths to politeness: Exploring how professional interpreters develop an understanding of politeness norms in British Sign Language and English
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Mapson, R. (2015) Paths to politeness: Exploring how professional interpreters develop an understanding of politeness norms in British Sign Language and English. In: Pizziconi, B. & Locher, M. A. (eds.) Teaching and Learning (Im)Politeness. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 155–184.
This chapter explores how bimodal bilinguals acquire and develop their awareness of politeness in British Sign Language (BSL). Drawing on data collected through semi-structured group discussions involving eight highly experienced BSL/English interpreters the chapter focuses on how the participants learned about linguistic politeness in BSL and how this contrasts with their acquisition of English politeness norms. The data indicate how different paths to the acquisition of linguistic politeness might affect understanding of it. The experience of interpreters from Deaf family backgrounds, who acquired BSL as their first language, contrasts with those who learned BSL formally, as an additional language, as adults. Although both groups of participants acquired knowledge of politeness in similar arenas, the languages they were exposed to in these environments differed and intra-group experiences were heterogeneous. The data highlight the difficulty of learning politeness norms in an L2, with participants reporting a lack of explicit focus on politeness in BSL classes and interpreter training programmes. This may reflect the lack of literature on politeness in signed language, and on BSL in particular. Both groups of interpreters reported experiences involving the negative transfer of L1 politeness norms. Data indicate that the different modalities of BSL and English may facilitate transferability rather than restrict it, with one affordance being the ‘blended transfer’ of non-manual politeness features associated with BSL which may be performed simultaneously with spoken English.