Constructing linguistic identity and interpreting : a case study of SL interpreting on Chinese television for high-profile political conferences
This study examines the broader social and political implications of sign language interpreting as a social phenomenon in China by investigating – via analysis of news reports and semi-structured interviews with Deaf Chinese people and interpreters – stakeholders’ discourses arising from the presence of sign language interpreting on television for major Chinese political conferences in 2012. Adopting a social constructionist perspective, the analysis draws from media studies, translation studies, sociology, and Deaf studies, with particular attention to the ways in which aspects of interpreting provision are described and valorised. The results show that the interpreting was framed differently, primarily in terms of its quality and social and political value, by the media and by the signing community. Close analysis suggests that the existing construction of deafness primarily as a disability influences the delivery of sign language interpreting in what the target service-users report to be a semi-intelligible form. In the current Chinese social and cultural context, however, such a service is nevertheless prized by signers; they argue that it can provide a learning opportunity for the dominant hearing society, and creates a discursive space for the linguistic and cultural dimensions of Deaf identity to emerge.