Linguistic Issues in Courtroom Interpretation

Susan Berk-Seligson

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Linguistic Issues in Courtroom Interpretation

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Translation and Interpretation


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Court interpreting, in its broadest sense, involves the conversion of source language material into its closest target language equivalent in a legal context. The notion of legal context, or domain, in turn, is broadly construed by court-interpreting specialists. In fact, the term ‘court interpreting’ itself is used interchangeably with labels such as ‘judiciary interpreting’ and ‘legal interpreting’, and while many experts in the interpreting field consider the distinctions among these concepts to be fuzzy, some use only one term, ‘court interpreter’, referring to persons who conduct interpreting both in the courtroom setting as well as in other types of legal context. Court interpreters are assigned to both quasi-judicial and judicial speech events. This article examines interpreting in three contexts: police interrogations, immigration and asylum cases, and small claims courts. Within the context of immigration, it considers the more formal role of interpreters in an immigration court, as well as the less formal interpreting contexts of asylum application interviews and the immigration detention process. The article concludes by analyzing interpreting in trial courts.

Keywords: court interpreting; court interpreters; trial courts; police interrogations; immigration; asylum; small claims courts; asylum application interviews; detention

Article.  6317 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Translation and Interpretation

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