Corps de l’article

Building on Straniero Sergio and Falbo (2012), the themed volume under review is yet another major contribution to the burgeoning field of corpus-based interpreting studies (henceforth CIS), a field which has seen more systematic exploration since Shlesinger advocated, in her seminal work, for the idea of conducting CIS as an “offshoot” of corpus-based translation studies (Shlesinger 1998: title). Indeed, steady progress has been made over the years thanks to the advantages afforded by cutting-edge information technologies, and researchers have begun to compile and create large electronic corpora comprising of datasets collected form authentic and natural interpreting settings. However, as challenges in accessing, transcribing and annotating sizable interpreting data continue to persist, much remains to be done before the field is able to transcend beyond a “cottage industry” (Setton 2011: 34). The present collection of 11 articles, by authors with a mixed geographic spread, is certainly a much-needed boost to the growth of this area.

The book has a clear layout, with the first two chapters profiling general issues in CIS and the others tackling specific topics related to various datasets with which researchers work. This review will begin with a brief introduction to each of these contributions based on their topical relevance before coming to a critical appraisal of the content.

Chapter 1 by Bendazzoli presents a retrospection on main features of existing CIS projects. In it, the author discusses issues such as the delimitation of interpreting corpora proper, languages involved, modes and settings, size, data distribution, etc. Agonized about the imbalances between research and application (education and practice), the author calls for increased awareness and collaboration in data collection, processing, and, more importantly, sharing and exchanging with an eye to leveraging the best potential of interpreting corpora. The chapter concludes with the appealing idea of introducing a Web 2.0 platform to address such needs. In Chapter 2, Bernardini, Ferraresi, et al. draw on the case of European Parliament Interpreting Corpora (EPIC) to elaborate in great detail the difficulties they faced and the solutions generated when compiling what they call “multilingual interpreting and intermodal corpora” (p. 23). This contribution is seen as an ideal account of a step-by-step guide for prospective developers in interpreting similar corpora, albeit joint efforts from as diverse a number of community members as possible are encouraged to bring corpora use to maturity.

The next two chapters focus on examining the cognitive load that interpreters take on while tackling language-pair specific elements, which presumably involves extra processing efforts. Defrancq and Plevoets follow a Bakerian approach to compare frequencies of intra-compound filled pauses between interpreted (from French) and non-mediated Dutch speech, a sign they attribute to processing difficulties due to cognitive overload. They find significantly more increases of filled pauses in interpreters than in speakers of Dutch and that such disfluencies again lead to insufficient lexical retrieval of easier to access compounds. Finally, cross-linguistic differences, such as compound components, are proven to be related to increased cognitive load. In a similar vein, Wang and Zou investigate the effect of syntactic asymmetry on Chinese-English consecutive interpreting, focusing specifically on interpreters’ strategies in coping with front-loaded modifying structures in Chinese. They argue that language specificity needs to be seen as an indispensible variable in shaping the product of interpreting. Here, notwithstanding its legitimacy, the authors’ reasoning, by means of comparable corpus analysis that reconstruction from Chinese into English is more taxing, seems somewhat elusive. Given the interpreting mode in question, a more convincing way of ascertaining added cognitive load in restructuring might be by measuring prolonged hesitations, if any, preceding such strategies which, as also revealed in Defrancq and Plevoets’ study, are typically related to difficulties in on-line speech planning (Gile 1995/2009: 163).

Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 deal with topics which are rather product-oriented, analyzing the characteristics of interpreter discourse, namely interpretese. Specifically, Aston, using exemplary concordances extracted from his self-built 2249i corpus, discusses the significance of formulaic units in maintaining fluency and alleviating cognitive load for simultaneous interpreters, particularly when working in their second language. Doubtlessly, recognizing the value of such units and consequently expanding their phraseological repertoire will put the trainees in good stead. Kajzer-Wietrzny in her article examines the use of the optional complementizer that in an intermodal corpus comprised of interpreted, non-native and native English speeches in the European Parliament. Her finding suggests that the former two are more similar in the use of that than the latter, which is attributed to a conscious effort by interpreters and non-native speakers to assure additional clarity and formality.

Chapter 7 by Rosso explores, through a gender perspective, factors including a speaker’s mode of delivery, input speed, language pair, and topic in relation to target speech length. After conducting a careful statistical analysis of a corpus comprised of 200 speeches mediated by interpreters in the European Parliament, she generally concludes that, while speaking patterns vary across the above parameters according to gender, both male and female interpreters spoke more slowly than their speakers, but that female interpreters spoke faster and less concisely than their male colleagues when source speeches were read.

The next three chapters concentrate on the strategies professional interpreters take in the European context. In Chapter 8, Spinolo delves into a descriptive study of interpreters’ renderings of figurative language, a potential source of problems believed to undermine smooth production in simultaneous interpreting. By availing herself of the small-sized IMITES corpus, she aims to detect and classify the coping tactics that interpreters use when dealing with metaphorical expressions. Dal Fovo’s contribution in Chapter 9 is another corpus-based investigation where she compares the interpretations done by two institutionally different interpreting teams of the same event, that is, the third 2014 EU Presidential Debate, a subcorpus of the largest TV interpreting corpus CorIT. Analyzing distinct strategies in representing the entertainment elements, she argues for the necessity to contextualize the concept of quality with regard to the appropriateness of a given interpretation. Chapter 10, by Sandrelli, explores the extent to which the interactional structures of the source language were replicated in interpreted speeches in FOOTIE, a corpus of simultaneously interpreted football press conferences. Her result suggests that while interpreters tend to retain a similar pattern of communication dynamics in the target language, they also took the trouble to add explicit information in such highly adversarial exchanges.

Chapter 11, by Neubig, Shimizu, et al., reports on the construction of the NAIST Simultaneous Translation Corpus, which boasts a rather exceptional and ambitious vision: to be a reference in the creation of simultaneous interpretation systems. Two combined features make it distinct from other related projects. One concerns varied experience levels of the interpreters, and the other written translation of the same source speeches that allows the researchers to conduct comparative studies between spoken and written translations. Initial findings show that different experiences in interpreting give rise to output of varied quality as opposed to translation experiences.

Overall, the eleven chapters contribute in one way or another to the theoretical, practical and pedagogical dimensions that CIS aims to embrace, albeit with different strengths. Compared to Straniero Sergio and Falbo (2012), which only intends to break ground in the area, the current collection reaches a new level of “descriptive adequacy” (Granger 2003: 19) by incorporating more empirical studies based on a mix of major interpreting corpora worldwide. Apart from the interesting multifarious topics explored by different researchers, the volume is particularly commendable for its endeavour to highlight the need to narrow the gap between research and practice on the one hand and pioneering the idea of introducing intermodal corpora of interpreting on the other. From a methodological perspective, the latter is perhaps more meaningful and workable than compiling multimodal corpora which is both technically onerous and less attractive in research potential. Budding researchers may take up this trend and develop their own resources for descriptive analysis targeting fundamental issues underlying the complex activity of translation at large, such as quality assessment and translation strategies.

In the end, there are some minor flaws that deserve further attention if a sequel is to come in the near future. First, given the wide spectrum of topics and the methodological terms used, the book would have been more user friendly if an index of important terms had been provided at the end. Second, although an abstract at the beginning of each chapter makes access to the essence of the research easier, the quality of these abstracts warrants improvement in terms of length and focus. Some could have been more concise and to-the-point (for instance, Chapter 6) and others are too short to be sufficiently effective (see Chapter 11). Third, corpora compilation and research are largely confined to the professional domain of conference interpreting, ignoring various community settings and learning environments which should be explored. Imperfect as it was, there is no denying that the volume lives up to “a renewed call” (p. x) to the research community for further development in CIS.