Interpreting and turn-taking in multilingual interaction

Professor Christian Licoppe (Department of Social Science at Telecom ParisTech), professor Jan Svennevig (MultiLing) and PhD student Jessica P B Hansen (MultiLing) will give presentations on the topic of interpreting and turn-taking in multilingual interaction. The seminar is open for everyone.


'Chunking' : voice, power and turn-taking in multi-lingual, consecutively interpreted courtroom proceedings with video links

by Christian Licoppe (external link)

Christian Licoppe
Photo: ResearchGate

In this paper we describe sequential problems which appear in asylum court proceedings when an asylum seeker launches into an expansive story-like response, which has to be done in successive chunks for the sake of consecutive interpreting. We show that when the interpreter finishes his/her rendition of such a partial stretch of talk, the floor may either be given back to the asylum seeker (for him/her to go on with his/her answer or story, and thus be able to express his/her ‘voice’) or seized by the judge to ask another question, thereby emphasizing the latter’s ‘control’ over the proceedings. Using video recordings of actual hearings (with asylum seekers appearing remotely through a video link) and conversation analysis, we show how the interpreter’s embodied activity and the way it displays his/her understanding of the response-so-far are crucial factors in the way turn-taking is collaboratively managed at such junctures, and therefore in the way the proceedings may lean more towards ‘voice’ or ‘control’. Such embodied, turn-taking-oriented behavior is obliquely affected by the technology in the sense that in cases when the interpreter is located at a distance from the asylum seeker, the former has fewer resources to influence the turn-taking process. Therefore, although he/she may want to give the floor back to the asylum seeker, there is a greater chance that the judge may seize it him/herself, thereby making the video-mediated proceedings in such a configuration lean slightly more towards ‘control’ than ‘voice’.

Decomposing turns to enhance understanding by L2 speakers

by Jan Svennevig

Jan Svennevig
Photo: Nadia Frantsen/UiO

This presentation shows how multi-unit turns may be designed to facilitate the establishment of mutual understanding in an incremental way. In addressing L2 speakers, L1 speakers decompose their multi-unit turns into smaller chunks and present them one at a time, in ‘installments’. They leave a pause in between each installment, thereby inviting the recipient to provide acknowledgements along the way, or, alternatively, to initiate repair at an early stage. The practice may be used pre-emptively, to prevent potential problems of understanding from arising, or in response to an indication of an understanding problem by the recipient.

Managing interpreting within other participants’ turn space

By Jessica P B Hansen and Jan Svennevig

Jessica Hansen
Photo: Nadia Frantsen/UiO

In interpreted interaction, long multi-unit turns pose a specific interactional problem, as the interpreter will need to intervene into the turn space of the current speaker in order to render what has been said up until that point. This presentation explores the multimodal organization of practices employed by medical professionals and interpreters in order to manage the temporary suspension of the medical professionals’ longer turn-in-progress. We explore at what point during medical professionals’ ongoing multi-unit turns interpreting is made relevant, how this is done and by whom. We argue that this is not simply the case of splitting a longer contribution, such as an explanation or instruction, into several single turns, but a temporary suspension of the ongoing turn in order for the interpreter to interpret. This in turn shows how interpreting is an activity oriented to and co-organized by participants other than the interpreter.


The seminar is open for everyone. It is organized in connection with PhD student Jessica P B Hansen’s midway assessment.


Jessica P B Hansen
Published May 29, 2019 12:14 PM - Last modified May 29, 2019 12:15 PM