Facework Strategies in an Interpreter-mediated Courtroom

When:13 Oct 2015, 3pm - 4pm
Venue:Morven Brown G3 (Map Ref C20)
Who:Xin Liu PhD student
Xin Lui

Interpreting & Translation Seminar


In an adversarial courtroom, two opposing parties each advocate their version of the events that will be challenged by the other party. The goal of communication in such an institutional setting is for each party to win the legal contest by presenting a case that is more convincing than that of the opponent. This adversarial and competitive nature of courtroom interaction determines that there is minimal politeness and intrinsic impoliteness in the facework system in court argumentations (Lakoff, 1989; Tracy, 2011). In cross-examination in particular, witness’ face is found to be frequently threatened and aggravated by legal professionals. While face threatening acts (Brown & Levinson, 1987) become powerful institutional tools for lawyers, in a bilingual courtroom where all the interactions are mediated by a third party, the interpreter, this is often complicated. Drawing on data from a moot court exercise by interpreting and law students at UNSW Australia, this paper explores facework strategies embedded in cross-examining questions and in their Chinese translation based on Penman’s facework schema (1990). More specifically, it aims to ascertain the extent to which facework strategies are maintained or modified in their interpretation and how that may affect the pragmatics of the interpreted courtroom questioning. The findings will contribute to a better understanding of the pragmatics of interpreter-mediated courtroom questioning and have implications for legal interpreter training.

About Xin Liu

Xin Liu is a PhD candidate in interpreting and translation at UNSW Australia. Before she came to Sydney, she was a lecturer at the Dalian University of Technology, China. She also worked as a freelance interpreter and translator. Her research interests include legal interpreting, forensic linguistics, discourse analysis and interpreter training. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators and the International Association of Forensic Linguistics.

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