Reconceptualising interpreter's role: a perspective from social identity theories

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The interpreter’s role and performance in interpreting-facilitated interactions have attracted considerable scholarly attention since the 1970s. Seminal field research on interpreting in courtrooms, in hospitals, and in war zones describe interpreters as active participants. Nevertheless, Hale (2006) and Pöchhacker (2006) critique that much data-driven research in the area suffers from a lack of theoretical conceptualisations, and is short of diversified sociocultural and linguistic contexts for investigation. To strengthen the theoretical background to research on interpreters’ role, this study draws on social psychology theories of social identity and optimal distinctiveness, and the sociolinguistic notion of face, to develop an interdisciplinary framework for conceptualising how identity claims may influence interpreters’ choice of linguistic strategies in delivery. The English-Mandarin political press conference interpreting context is examined to illustrate how the proposed framework may shed light on our understanding of interpreters’ behaviour in action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-104
Number of pages21
JournalFORUM-International Journal of Interpretation and Translation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2021


  • face
  • identité sociale
  • interpreter’s role
  • optimal distinctiveness
  • rôle de l’interprète
  • social identity
  • théorie de distinction optimale
  • visage


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