Dr. Marjorie Zambrano-Paff, Department of Spanish, recently presented her paper, “Mediated Humor in the Legal Setting: The Construction of New Identities,” at the International Society for Language Studies conference, which took place June 23–25, 2011, in Oranjestad, Aruba.
The study examines humor in immigration courtrooms. Judges often attempt to interject humor into the proceedings, yet the interpreter’s target language rendition often does not reflect these attempts. This study seeks to identify the conditions associated with this phenomenon and show how this violates the principles of good interpreting.
This study highlights the difficulty bilinguals experience when interpreting ironic remarks, jokes, or verbal play and shows how their linguistic choices can change not only the meaning of the original message—that is, not only the jokes or verbal play—but also the pragmatic force, or what the judges intended; for example, to mitigate the seriousness of the case, or to show solidarity toward the defendant or witness. This constitutes a violation of the ethical standards for interpreters set forth by the Federal Judicial Center.
Although the main focus is on the interpreter’s mediated rendition in instances where verbal play has occurred, attention is also paid to the judge’s humor or sarcasm so as to understand the judge’s perceived attitudes regarding the defendant’s credibility.