The Power of the Interpreter in the Business Domain: A CDA Approach to the Professional Interpreter’s Mediating Role

Zhong, W. 2021. The Power of the Interpreter in the Business Domain: A CDA Approach to the Professional Interpreter’s Mediating Role. PhD thesis University of Westminster College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

TitleThe Power of the Interpreter in the Business Domain: A CDA Approach to the Professional Interpreter’s Mediating Role
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsZhong, W.

This study explores current practices in business interpreting in China with the aim of identifying the power of the interpreter from the perspective of Critical Discourse
Analysis (CDA). Given the dramatic increase in trade and economic exchanges between China and Western countries, business dialogue interpreting is the most frequently adopte d type of interpreting in China. Cross cultural business negotiation, with its intricate nature and fluctuating dynamics, is highly relevant to its social and situational context. Universally recognized professional norms and interpreter codes of conduct a re not always applicable.
This study proposes the following hypothesis: when practicing in a business scenario, the interpreter has power (defined as “control”) derived from linguistic, social, and cultural resources that are unavailable to others in the discourse.
Conceptualizing the interpreted business encounter as a discursive practice, the study examines data selected from authentic, naturally occurring business interpreting events in China. The research draws on CDA theory to explore the
power of the interpreter, looking at how the actual role of the interpreter deconstructs a shared fiction of interpreters as invisible, detached, and totally neutral in such discourse through the use of scarce bilingual and bicultural resources.
Fairclough’s (1989) three dimensional CDA model consists of description, interpretation and explanation. The model makes empirical examination of the interpreter’s power in specific discourse possible by allowing for transcript analysis
across different dimensions and levels. This research makes an innovative contribution to the field by integrating CDA theory with theories of social and Interpreting studies, such as Goffman’s (1981) participation framework and Wadensjö’s (1998) typologies. It adapts relevant methodology to examine how the interpreter’s power was established and enacted.
The power of interpreter is represented in the capacity to exhibit ownership and accountability when taking individual decisions and actions to influence the development of the dialogue. This capacity is explored primarily in terms of
following three categories: the variation of renditions, personal pronoun shifts, and the management of turn taking within the discursive practice of business interpreting. The results show that when performing in the context of business
negotiation interpreting, the interpreter assumes a substantial role. This role disrupts a prescribed, idealized image of the interpreter as invisible and totally neutral within the activity of interpreting. Interviews with interpreters then explore their awareness of power as well as how their intervening behaviors and shifts in subject position are influenced by the situational and social context of business negotiations.
The role of the interpreter within the setting of business negotiations is uncharted territory in Interpreting Studies. This study aims to improve interpreter awareness of their actual role and subject position in the domain of business. It also carries the potential to enhance the quality of pedagogical practice and the effectiveness of interpreter mediated business meetings.

File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedMay 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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