Interpreting into the B language: A corpus-oriented study of pragmatic markers in interpreted political speeches from Chinese to English

Project: Research project

Project Details


Interpreting into the B language, or retour interpreting, has often been regarded as unacceptable, mostly because of language idiomaticity concerns. However, this kind of interpreting is frequently an unavoidable reality for Chinese to English interpretation owing to the lack of English-native interpreters who are proficient in Chinese. This is especially so in political and diplomatic settings, where the interpreter is required to be of the same nationality as the speaker to avoid potential conflicts in political stances.

When interpreting political speeches, interpreters, in addition to rendering the message and political stances accurately and faithfully, also play the role of a mediator to help reduce unnecessary hostility or displeasure. Existing research has seldom addressed the specific communicative strategies of interpreters working in a non-native language. In this respect, the use of pragmatic markers (PMs), i.e. the linguistic signals concerning the communication functions of the language, not only displays an interpreter’s proficiency in B language orality, but also the level of communicative skills core to professional interpreters.

This project aims to study PMs in interpreted political speeches from Chinese to English. The research work consists of two parts. The first part involves the collection and compilation of three corpora of political speeches, including one of interpreted speeches from Chinese to English, and two of speeches by native speakers of English and Chinese, respectively. These speeches are delivered by, and interpreted from those by, state leaders and key political figures from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, in addition to speeches delivered by their counterparts from the United States and the United Kingdom. In the second part of the research, the three corpora will be annotated with different types of PMs. Cross-genre and cross-modality analysis on the corpora will be conducted to examine and compare PMs in interpreted political speeches in the B language and those in the non-interpreted speeches in the A language. The analysis will also assess the extent to which PMs of the original speeches in the A language interfere with the interpretation into the B language.

The project will provide insights into how PMs of interpreted political speeches operate in interpreters’ B language. The research findings will contribute to enhancing our understanding of the functions of PMs in political interpreting and help advance the professional practice of retour interpreting. The corpora compiled will constitute a pool of useful resources for training interpreters in discourse competence.
Effective start/end date1/01/1731/12/18

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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