Doing ‘Understanding’ in Dialogue Interpreting: Advancing Theory and Method

Graham H Turner, Andrew J. Merrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
609 Downloads (Pure)


This paper asks what ‘understanding’ looks like in the presence of an interpreter. Much investigation of understanding in Interpreting Studies explores claims which treat it as axiomatic, rather than exploring the occurrence of comprehension itself (how participants come to accept that it is occurring, what form it takes, what its consequences are). Here we re-purpose a well-established research tool — the Map Task — to illustrate a robustly empirical approach to this issue, using complex multimodal and multilingual data. The Map Task, we contend, can play a potentially groundbreaking role in Interpreting Studies, mitigating the constraint created by the uniqueness of each interpreted exchange which otherwise hinders generalisability and theoretical expansion. In particular, we argue that the way interpreters and service users, through their talk, bring themselves collectively to points of assumed shared understanding is illuminated with particular clarity through the Map Task lens. Research within this paradigm, we suggest, may help to enable further development of Interpreting Studies, affording an opportunity to deepen our communal understanding of the collaborative and interactive nature of meaning-making in interpreted exchanges, starting with the recognition that what understanding consists of is, in essence, what interlocutors treat as understanding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-171
Number of pages35
JournalInterpreting: International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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