Political interpreting, as a significant means for foreign language speakers to access a government’s official policies, has been regarded as an intensive and stressful task. Any single misinterpretation or misuse of strategy can lead to regional and even international disputes. It will therefore be interesting to study the pragmatic strategies applied by interpreters working in political settings, especially when they render propositions that may sound unfavorable or contrastive to people’s presuppositions. In this regard, the use of contrastive markers, an important type of pragmatic markers, serves as an important linguistic indicator of the application of such strategies. Nevertheless, not much has been explored in this aspect. This paper, therefore, studies the use of contrastive markers in the interpreting of policy addresses from Cantonese to English. A parallel corpus, consisting of policy addresses delivered by Chief Executives in Hong Kong (about 0.22 million words) and their English interpretations (about 0.29 million words), was used in the study. The Cantonese contrastive markers — bat gwo and daan (hai) (comparable in meaning to however and but respectively in English), and their renditions in English — were compared and analyzed. The two Cantonese contrastive markers were found to correspond to a variety of renditions in English. These findings show how interpreters apply pragmatic strategies when dealing with the extreme situations in political interpreting. They shed light on the development of e-learning for pragmatic competence training of interpreters working in political settings, as well as natural language processing applications for handling such a high-level linguistic feature.
Jun Pan, Billy Tak Ming Wong