Processing possessives in simultaneous interpreting from English to Polish


  • Katarzyna Stachowiak-Szymczak
  • Bergljot Behrens


The present paper reports on an experiment in which the use of possessives is investigated in an interpreting task from English to Polish. The English possessive determiner system is neutral with respect to the syntactic position of the antecedent possessor, while Polish distinguishes lexically between locally bound – i.e. reflexive – and non-reflexive possessive modifiers. The interpreter therefore has to ‘compute’ mentally the syntactic position of the antecedent possessor in order to make the correct choice in Polish as the target language. The study shows that this is cognitively a very demanding task in simultaneous interpreting, as many errors as well as self-corrections occur. The study furthermore shows that interpreters adapt their language to their audience, and adequate omissions, as well as correct form of the possessive occur more often when they have a group of engineers in mind than when they interpret for language specialists. We understand this to mean that the cognitive complexity of solving the cross-linguistic asymmetry in the possessive system causes more errors when the interpreter stays closer to the source text in speaking to language specialists.