Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities in interpreter-mediated communication for public health services

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This paper explores ways in which identities are negotiated (linguistically, culturally, institutionally, ethnically) in interpreter-mediated communication for public services with particular emphasis on medical interpreting. Given that cultural/ethnic identity is made manifest in language, cross-cultural interpretermediated communication is consequently also – perhaps essentially – about negotiating identities (albeit fluid rather than static ones), and thus negotiating perceived and in-built perceptions of Self and Other. Not only must the interpreter in a cross-cultural encounter negotiate a position and a role for him/ herself (professional as well as personal) with both interlocutors, but s/he must enable that position-taking and role-negotiation between two interlocutors who may be – conceptually and textually – worlds apart. Based on the premise that each actor brings to the encounter their own socially and historically constructed identities, the paper illustrates some of the ways in which identities and the process of identity-construction/negotiation are manifested verbally.


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