Linguistic analysis: the impact of African American Vernacular English on the work of non-deaf American sign language/English interpreters

Hill, Sharon Grigsby (2023). Linguistic analysis: the impact of African American Vernacular English on the work of non-deaf American sign language/English interpreters. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The purpose of this mixed methods study is to analyze the work product of twenty (20) professional interpreters when the source language is African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and the target language is American Sign Language (ASL) and to explore the language attitudes that exist in the profession of ASL/English interpreting regarding African American English and standard English. Sign language interpreter education programs and certifying bodies in the United States use Dominant American English (DAE) as the linguistic goal, perpetuating historical raciolinguistic ideologies. What happens when interpreters encounter AAE and must quickly process meaning? The significance of this study is profound; to date, the profession of ASL/English interpreting has not conducted any quantitative research that incorporates this language variety as the source language. This research is the first of its kind in the literature and is innovative in both design and methodology.

The findings of this study demonstrate that when tasked with interpreting spoken AAVE content, interpreters do not utilize omission frequently as a coping device. Rather, they attempt to convey the AAVE content but are largely unable to utilize their training or skillset to arrive at an interpretation that is equivalent with the AAVE content. AAVE meaning was distorted or skewed, with the highest distortion score being 55% (over half) of the AAVE content. For those that demonstrated familiarity with AAVE, this research pinpointed a total of eight linguistic features as identified by the deaf expert panel participants. These findings prove the negative impact of ignoring the existence of various language varieties in the work of professional interpreters. It is hoped that these findings will be applied to other professions and used to enhance interpreter training.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Language and Linguistics
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics


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