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Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics

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Volume 52, Issue 2


Directionality and context effects in word translation tasks performed by conference interpreters

Agnieszka Chmiel
Published Online: 2016-06-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/psicl-2016-0010


Professional interpreters employed by international institutions usually work into their L1 from their L2, while freelance interpreters tend to work both into and from their L1. A study was devised to see if the long-term interpreting unidirectional practice (in the L2–L1 direction only), in contrast to bidirectional practice (in the L2–L1 and L1–L2 direction), influences the speed of lexical retrieval manifested through shorter translation latencies. Forty-eight professional conference interpreters produced oral translations of nouns presented in isolation, in high context constraint sentences and in low context constraint sentences. Contrary to predictions, unidirectional interpreters did not manifest directionality asymmetry and their L2–L1 translation latencies were not shorter than L1–L2 translation latencies. Surprisingly, the L2–L1 direction advantage was found in the group of bidirectional interpreters. The data suggest that the dominant directionality in interpreting practice has little impact on the strength of interlingual lexical links in the interpreter’s mental lexicon or that other factors (such as language use, exposure and immersion) might offset any such impact. The study also revealed an expected context effect, which shows that interpreters use semantic constraint to anticipate sentence-final words.

Key words: conference interpreting; word translation; directionality; bidirectional interpreters; interpreting


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About the article

Agnieszka Chmiel Faculty of English Adam Mickiewicz University Collegium Novum al. Niepodległości 4 61-874 Poznań Poland

Published Online: 2016-06-13

Published in Print: 2016-06-13

Citation Information: Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, Volume 52, Issue 2, Pages 269–295, ISSN (Online) 1897-7499, ISSN (Print) 0137-2459, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/psicl-2016-0010.

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