In interpreting, professionals must be able to convey to their clients the rhythm, stress, and length of phrases used by the communicating parties to indicate their respective emotional states. Such subtleties, which can signal sarcasm and irony or whether a statement is a question or a command, are defined in linguistics as prosody. Brenda Nicodemus’s new volume, the fifth in the Studies in Interpretation series, discusses the prosodic features of spoken and signed languages, and reports the findings of her groundbreaking research on prosodic markers in ASL interpretation.
In her study, Nicodemus videotaped five highly skilled interpreters as they interpreted a spoken English lecture into ASL. Fifty Deaf individuals viewed the videotaped interpretations and indicated perceived boundaries in the interpreted discourse. These identified points were then examined for the presence of prosodic markers that might be responsible for the perception of a boundary. Prosodic Markers and Utterance Boundaries reports on the characteristics of the ASL markers, including their frequency, number, duration, and timing. Among other findings, the results show that interpreters produce an average of seven prosodic markers at each boundary point. The markers are produced both sequentially and simultaneously and under conditions of highly precise timing. Further, the results suggest that the type of prosodic markers used by interpreters are both systematic and stylistic.