Overlapping talk is not always nor consistently viewed by speakers as interruption ( Edelsky 1981 ; Murray 1985 ; Tannen 1989 ). Many American speakers, women for example, tolerate overlapping speech without labeling it interruption (James and Drakich 199o). The term overlap or overlapping talk, includes both brief spurts of talk and talk which could continue for longer. Instances of overlap include everything from brief listening responses, to indications of understanding or the lack of it, words of agreement or disagreement, and when two speakers begin talking at the same time.
In simultaneous interpreting, one kind of overlapping talk is constantinterpreters talk as primary speakers are talking. This kind of simultaneous talk of speaker and interpreter, which, in face-to-face interpreting, can be seen or heard by all participants, is Ð° marker of the unusual nature of an interpreting event. This Interlingua overlap becomes an accepted norm of these face-to-face encounters and is not the kind of overlapping talk discussed here. However, another kind of overlap occurs in interpreted encounters which require the interpreter to intervene.
This is the overlapping talk that occurs between the two primary speakers. 6 This overlap can easily be understood because two participants can begin simultaneously, respond to anothers talk briefly or at length, ask Ð° question, exclaim, and so on. This is not to say that overlapping talk by primary speakers is customary. In fact, it appears that, for the most part, participants in an interpreting situation are aware that something unusual is going on and adjust their usual habits of talkingthat is, they are more cautious about taking Ð° turn, and, many times, are never sure when it is their turn.
In any language there can be overlapping talk by speakers without noticeable disruption of interaction. But overlapping talk between two speakers in an interpreted meeting forces an interpreter to act. An interpreter cannot interpret two speakers at the same time; thus overlapping talk during interpreting has an impact different from when it occurs in ordinary conversation. When it occurs, two things are immediately apparent: (1) the possibility exist for three people to be talking; and (2) the interpreter must make Ð° decision.
Then the question is, what does the interpreter do, or rather what choices are available to the interpreter? 1. An interpreter can stop one (or both) speakers and allow the other speaker to continue. If an interpreter stops both speakers, then either the interpreter indicates who speaks next or one of the primary speakers decides who talks next. 2. An interpreter can momentarily ignore one speakers overlapping talk, hold the segment of talk in memory, continue interpreting the other speaker, and then produce the held talk immediately following the end of Ð° speakers turn.
Decisions about holding talk in ones memory lie within the interpreters ability to do so and the interpreters judgment regarding the importance or impact of the talk to be held in memory. 3. An interpreter can ignore overlapping talk completely. 4. An interpreter can momentarily ignore overlapping talk and upon finishing the interpretation of one speaker, offer the next turn to the other speaker, or indicate in some way that Ð° turn was attempted. To stop Ð° speaker, an interpreter has to do something, verbally and/or nonverbally, within microseconds of the overlapping talk.
Although there may be several strategies in any language for stopping Ð° speaker, interpreters also have to consider other factors, such as message importance, speaker relationships, and relative status or authority. Inevitably, interpreters have to choose strategies that work in specific situations with specific speakers. Because of the nature of interpreting employment, it is not unusual for interpreters to work in situations where they do not know the speakers or know them only slightly. This forces interpreters to learn the factors of Ð° situation quickly.
Thus, interpreters must know Ð° wide range of communicative strategies and, as they learn about interlocutorsjust as interlocutors learn about participating in an interpreted eventthey make decisions about which strategies to use. This example is particularly rich with three instances of overlapping talk between the primary speakers. Two instances of overlap are within the first seven seconds of this segment, brief, and practically imperceptible. The third instance, however, is more dramatic. As three people begin to talk, the Interpreter has to do something. The first overlap occurs as the Professor begins Ð° new topic.
She has been discussing why the Students work is good but needs some corrections. Then, with almost no hesitation, the Professor switches to Ð° new topic, chunking. At the beginning of this segment, YES is the Students response to the Professors previous utterance. As the Student says YES, the Professor simultaneously starts her new topic with Ch- but doesnt complete the word. This is the first instance of overlapping talk as the Professor and Student both utter together. Both contributions are brief; the Professor doesnt even finish her word so there is no need to stop them.
The Professor appears to hear and understand the Yes, Ð† agree rendered by the Interpreter. The second overlap occurs one line later when the Professor and the Student say chunking together. The Interpreter has let the Student know that the Professor is talking about chunking, and as the Professor says, Ð† have no idea how, she sees the Student shrug; look puzzled, and shake his head. Although she pauses briefly, as she says, chunking again, so does the Student. As they say chunking together, they both see each other speak, and they laugh together briefly. Again, it seems Ð° spontaneous occurrence, brief and ending quickly.