Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Disambiguation of Courtroom Testimony Interpreted in Spanish and English in Puerto Rico and Florida
by Hernández Amateau, Moisés, Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras (Puerto Rico), 2020, 196; 27995852
Abstract (Summary)

Ambiguity is the presence of more than one meaning in any human spoken or written expression. Research in language and communication shows that natural languages are inherently ambiguous (Prior, Wintner, McWhinney, & Lavie, 2009). Such ambiguity can be found lexically at the semantic level, at the functional, and pronominally. It can also be found in the structural relationship that words have with one another within written or spoken utterances (syntagma). Speech utterances can also be ambiguous phonologically by words that read or sound alike (homographs and homonyms), and intonationally by the attitudinal information that is conveyed. Other paralinguistic features such as body language (kinesics), situational contexts (pragmatics), and culture (dialogical references) play a role in the generation of ambiguity. Ambiguity can also occur when parties are not acquainted with the sociolects of individuals belonging to different identity groups as described by the discipline of discourse analysis.

Court interpreters are legally required to convey equivalent facts and concepts from one language into another with no additions, omissions, embellishments, or explanations. In doing so, they inevitably disambiguate expressions based on personal cultural knowledge, pragmatic and intonational observations, and knowledge of the sociolects of lawyers, law enforcement agents, and other groups, sometimes to the chagrin of lawyers litigating legal controversies.

Despite the importance that effective disambiguation has on the outcome of these legal controversies, little information on ambiguity and translational work is available, and much of the research is found in disciplines outside of the fields of translation theory or in court interpreting policy and guidelines in white and grey literature.

This dissertation attempts to fill a part of this void by analyzing twelve case histories of ambiguity that arose during Spanish-English interpretation of courtroom testimony in Puerto Rico and Florida. This case review relies on an autoethnographic approach to reap part of the personal experience as to how court interpreters go about recognizing and dealing with ambiguity.

The work explores existing language policy in U.S. courts and how the guidelines set limitations on the degree of discretion that interpreters can exercise in the translational work that they perform during court interpreting.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pousada, Alicia
Commitee: Albouyeh, Ann, Simounet, Alma
School: University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras (Puerto Rico)
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Puerto Rico
Source: DAI-A 81/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Linguistics, Translation studies, Caribbean Studies
Keywords: Ambiguity, Court Interpreting, Disambiguation, English, Language policy, Spanish, Florida, Puerto Rico
Publication Number: 27995852
ISBN: 9798641474274
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