These questions are participant-oriented, not true queries for information. An extended answer or an answer diverted to another participant would seem unnecessary and disruptive to the flow of conversation. Because interpreters are human and participate in the discourse process, it seems natural, even ordinary, for speakers, especially those unfamiliar with interpreters, to view them as participants capable of answering questions.
Not only is the doctors question Ð° natural, direct question that one could anticipate from those unfamiliar with Deaf people and their language, but one can also anticipate that the doctor expects Ð° brief answer to he forthcoming from the interpreter with minimal time elapse however, as specialists in assisting with communication, interpreters know that these direct questions have the potential of distracting or disrupting the more important conversational flow occurring here.
Thus, for interpreters, this is Ð° communicative dilemma, and the central question around interpreter involvement could be how to minimize this conversational participation rather than whether or not the other participant has Ð° right to know and answer the question or direct the interpreter to answer. Managing conversational flow, so that the speakers accomplish their purposes for meeting, would seem to include keeping distractions to Ð° minimum. The authors options for solving the dilemma were to relay the question to the Deaf patient and either relay an answer back or get the Deaf persons permission to answer.
Both of these solutions result in Ð° longer than expected wait for an answer for the doctor. Questions and answers are utterance pairs because questions anticipate and expect answers. Although both options would eventually be Ð° response, these options (Ð†) delay an anticipated quick response and (2) do not answer the question: rather, both responses suggested point out the role and responsibility of the interpreter, Ð° question not even conceived by the doctor.
Metzger (1995)has shown that giving explanations or delaying responses by sending the question onto the other participant causes more interruption in Ð° discourse event: Minimal responses allowed interaction to resume with the least amount of influence of the interpreter. Answering briefly minimizes the disruption of the interactional flow or rhythm and is Ð° course of communicative action that contributes to maintaining Ð° flow of talk to achieve the speakers actual purposes for coming together.
Passing the question along to the minority speaker comes from the notion that interpreters loyalty should lie with Deaf people. The argument is that to relay the question to the Deaf person grants that person the power to control their own situation. But research suggests that this solution is in fact more disruptive than necessary. Interpreters are, by the very nature of their work, committed to Deaf people or minority citizens and to their right to control their destiny and to be treated as first-class citizens.
Moreover, Deaf people and minority citizens who go to doctors have Ð° lot more important things on their minds than whether or not the doctor understands the role of an interpreter. Let us return to the point of how roles are defined by those who inhabit the role and are also defined by the way the others confirm or reject the performance of the role. Although we do not have the possible or potential reaction of the doctor to Ð° delayed response, we can see that this would indeed confirm or deny how the role plays out in actual interaction.
If either participant reacts in Ð° way that presents interactional problems, then one can see their expectations for the role of interpreter. When one of the interpreters in Metzgers study did not answer Ð° direct question and passed the question along to the minority speaker, the interaction became considerably more confused. Interactional confusion would seem to be what an interpreter should be responsible for fixing, not causing. Other points can be made here.
First, this example should illustrate the potential difficulties of taking utterances out of context. As people talk, meaning is created in and by the relationships established, by previous knowledge and experience in interaction, by words and sentences, and by the way utterances occur sequentially. One of Schiffrins central principles of discourse is that how something is said, meant, and done . . . is guided by relationships among the following.