When people speak their mother tongue, they do it from a fundamental experience of embodiment. This article treats the topic of disembodiment of language, i.e., the experience of body and language being separated in communication, what necessarily occurs when the communication partners speak different and foreign languages. For the study of linguistic disembodiment I shall use the case of simultaneous interpretation of humour in the European Parliament (EP), which poses problems of disembodiment on several levels; verbal humour in itself being an embodied type of linguistic expression will supposedly be threatened not only by the transfer between languages, but also by the very technicalities of the simultaneous interpretation process. The study is based on empirical data, comprising interviews with Danish interpreters and with their “customers”, Danish members of the EP (MEPs), as well as about ten hours of observations from the interpreters’ booth. The findings show a disagreement between interpreters and MEPs as to the perceived successfulness of interpreting humour and having it interpreted; a discrepancy, which can be led back to the experience of disembodiment, and which I shall explain within a sociological framework, the so-called Associative-Network Theory (ANT). In fact, I shall consider the interpreters’ booth, used here as a metonym for all the technical devices involved in the interpretation process, as a negative social mediator in social interaction, putting obstacles in the way of a successful translation of humour; humour which, in contrast, I consider a positive social mediator because of its potential for furthering cooperation between communication partners across languages, cultures and political observation.
|Journal||Globe: A Journal of Language, Culture and Communication|
|Issue number||Special issue 1|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|