Re-examining Omission in Simultaneous Interpreting: A Multi-method Study Involving Student Interpreters

  • Huimin Zhong

Student thesis: Phd


This study investigates the causes of omission in the student interpreter‘s simultaneous interpreting performance, with specific reference to the way in which omission is used strategically. The (re)theorisation of omission as a strategy is achieved by an inclusive framework that incorporates various strands of research, including the cognitive processing paradigm, the product-oriented approach and the socio-cultural approach to interpreting. The thesis draws on data from interpreting recordings and retrospective interviews involving eight student interpreters, and data from a nine-week observation period of a simultaneous interpreting class involving a different cohort of students on the same programme. This multi-method design is aimed at exploring the causes of omission in the student interpreter‘s performance and how the interpreting norms regarding omission are acted upon in the classroom. The thesis draws on various theoretical inputs to conceptualise omission. Napier‘s (2004) taxonomy of omission is employed to investigate the causes of omission, albeit with some adaptations, as it is the only taxonomy that incorporates strategic omission in contrast to others (e.g. Barik 1971; Gile1999a) that conceptualise omission only as an error. The application of the adapted taxonomy in this study led to the identification of various types of omission based on the causes reported by the student interpreters. One of the findings to emerge from the study was that the student interpreters did not always make a clear distinction between strategic omission and intentional but erroneous omission. Although some omissions led to a loss of information, the student interpreters still described such omissions as strategic. Such seemingly contradictory conceptualisations are identified and discussed in relation to the concept of face threat (Monacelli 2009), the researcher‘s reflexivity and the interpreting norms presented in the classroom. Although there has been much research on interpreting norms, there is a lack of research on the ―extratextual source‖ of norms (Toury 1995: 65), which calls for taking the wider socio-cultural context into consideration. One of the original contributions of the study thus lies in exploring the ways in which the interpreting trainer and the students act on interpreting norms in the classroom, which in turn shape the student interpreter‘s use of omission. Drawing on Bourdieu‘s (1972; 1980; 1990) practice theory and its potential in translation and interpreting studies, the interpreting training programme is conceptualised as a ―discursive space of norms‖ and analysis is made to examine how norms regarding omission are initiated, transmitted, discussed and contested. The enactments are considered as important contextual factors that help to provide a thick description of the norms regarding omission. Through the analysis of the causes of omission and norms regarding omission in the context of the interpreting classroom, this multi-method study introduces a fresh perspective for examining omission and provides new insights for understanding the process of simultaneous interpreting. It also makes a solid contribution to the under-explored area of researching interpreting norms from a socio-cultural perspective and opens up new avenues for exploring ethics as an initial norm of conference interpreting. In particular, the findings show potential to be applied in interpreting training. The student interpreters and the trainer, though coming from a Chinese background, interact in a British interpreting training programme. The clash of norms exhibited in their interaction could thus be understood in relation to target culture expectancy and cultural habitus, suggesting the need to consider such factors in designing an international interpreting programme.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaeve Olohan (Supervisor) & Rebecca Tipton (Supervisor)

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