In Issue 1/2020

“What’s in a name?”, exclaims Juliet to Romeo, arguing, “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”. Though powerful in her loving ardour, Juliet’s adage cannot be applied to any aspect of life, and surely not to Intersteno professions. Terms like “transcribing”, “reporting”, “recording”, “subtitling”, captioning”, “respeaking”, “voice writing”, “stenographing”, “CARTing”, “speech-to-text interpreting”, etc. may indeed mean different activities or refer to different aspects of the same activity.

Despite such differences, these activities serve the same purpose: turning spoken language into written language. Moreover, a team of researchers in translation and psycholinguistics have pointed out that the type of brainwaves involved in the process of reporting in the same language and those involved in the process of conventional translation between different languages are the same and their intensity very similar. For these reasons, we may easily consider the professions above as falling into the same category: diamesic translation, i.e. turning spoken language into written language as accurately as possible.

But what does accuracy mean? The basis on which diamesic translation activities differ depends precisely on this notion, which varies depending on country, language, context and the level of language it refers to: phonetics, lexicogrammar, pragmatics and semiotics. Hence, four main categories of diamesic translation can be envisaged:

  1. Litteratim, or phonetic translation: translating speech sound for sound, either generally (e.g. phonetic transcription, phone tapping and automatic transcription) or occasionally, when wrong pronunciation is relevant (e.g. court reporting, subtitling for the deaf or close captioning). For example: “W- W- W- We want to go… ehm, there, to Paaaris!”
  2. Verbatim, or lexical translation: translating speech word for word but avoiding orality features (e.g. court reporting and TV commercial captioning but also parliamentary reporting and close captioning in some countries). For example: “We want to go there, to Paris!”
  3. Sensatim, or pragmatic translation: translating speech meaning for meaning, when form is ancillary to content (e.g. minute-taking, note taking, summary reporting) or when access to written text is hindered by verbatim translation because of differences between spoken and written stylistics (e.g. parliamentary reporting in some countries) or differences between speech rate and reading speed (e.g. close captioning). For example: “We want to go to Paris!”
  4. Signatim, or semiotic translation: translating speech communicative sign for communicative sign, as is often done in parliamentary reporting (where non-verbal events like applause, picket signs, booing, etc. are included), close captioning (where sound effects like steps, doorbells, shots, etc. are included) and descriptive reporting (where all non-verbal elements of a product like its layout, duration, etc. are included). For example: “We want to go to Paris! [she sighs]”

In the end, all Intersteno professions mentioned above are forms of diamesic translation, because a professional in these fields performs the same textual and psychocognitive activities as translators, interpreters or subtitlers, depending on the notion of accuracy they aim to apply. Eventually, on these bases, all diamesic translation professions can be seen as points on the same professional continuum.

Carlo Eugeni is the chairman of Intersteno Scientific Committee.

Further reading

Eugeni, C. (2020). Human-Computer Interaction in Diamesic Translation – Multilingual Live Subtitling. In D. Dejica, C. Eugeni & A. Dejica-Carțiș [eds.] Translation Studies and Information Technology – New Pathways for Researchers, Teachers and Professionals. Timisoara: Editura Politehnica.

Gottlieb, H. (2017). Semiotics and Translation. In K. Malmkjær [ed.] The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies and Linguistics. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 45-63.

Manca, L., Cosci, M., Siciliano, G. & Bonanni, E. (2019). Neural aspects in simultaneous interpreting: the role of music in intralingual and interlingual activities. CoMe 4.

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