Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Meaning in context: The role of context and language in narratives of disclosure of sibling sexual assault
by Shaw, Risa S., Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2007, 251; 3299621
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative sociolinguistic study explored how female survivors of brother-sister incest talked about disclosing that abuse to family members. It examined how contextual factors influenced discourse usage and narrative structure in American Sign Language (ASL) and American English across two contexts—a conversation between two survivors, and an interview between a survivor and a person with no history of sexual abuse—allowing comparison across languages and across contexts.

The primary differences between the contexts studied were the sociolinguistic setting of the interactions (conversation vs. interviews) and whether the interlocutors shared the experience of sexual abuse. The data set included a first-time-told and first-time-retold narrative; no prior analysis of such texts has been found in the literature. The first-time-telling lacked cohesion and clarity, which increased significantly on retelling. The data showed the vocabulary choices the participants used to index the perpetrators, themselves, and the abuse were highly context dependent. The data also uncovered backchanneling that functioned to display shared identity. This study suggests that nonverbal information captured through video-taping is as essential to understanding spoken language interactions as for signed language interactions.

The ASL disclosure narratives revealed the ways in which audism and linguicism exacerbated the traumatic experiences of the Deaf participants. All participants displayed a pattern from agentive action with first disclosure, toward reduced sense of agency through dealing with family responses to disclosure and back toward more agency with later reflection on and integration of their understanding of the abuse and its aftermath. The participants assert that disclosure is transformative.

Both the sociolinguistic and trauma findings suggest implications for the field of interpreting. In particular, the more extended background information that appears in ASL narratives as compared to English narratives provides important discourse analysis information for interpreters. That meaning is co-created and can be understood only in context has important implications for how the task of interpreting is conceptualized, and consequently for both the practice and teaching of interpreting. The centrality of context has not been fully integrated into interpretation studies; suggestions for how to begin this integration are made.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Amussen, Susan
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 69/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: American Sign Language, Brother-sister incest, Disclosure, Disclosure narratives, Interpreting, Language, Narratives, Retellings, Sexual assault, Sibling, Sibling sexual abuse
Publication Number: 3299621
ISBN: 978-0-549-42917-3
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