In Issue 1/2024

Reporting is repeating. The reporter focuses on a speech event, such as a TV show or a court hearing, and then reproduces it in a chosen written genre, such as subtitles or a verbatim report. This observation can be illustrated with many re-prefaced terms that are used to describe reporting and similar phenomena in linguistics: representation, recontextualization, reformulation, reanimation.

But there is a catch, of course. As Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” Something is always different. The transition from speech to writing already makes the reported speech seem and feel like something else. This necessarily happens even when nothing is consciously edited – and perhaps especially then.

This inner dynamicity of reporting extends even further. In her book Communicating Rights: The Language of Arrest and Detention (Palgrave, 2007), Frances Rock lists sociolinguistic reasons why “any instance of discourse is unique and irreproducible”. These reasons include a change of context, changing or removing content, audience interpretations and the text’s relations with other texts.

As an illustration, in court reporting the original context of the court session changes into the written genre of court report. The resources of spoken interaction, such as prosody and tone, are switched to those of written text artifact, which are quite different. Even though the linguistic material is not necessarily shortened, it is usually edited for the sake of readability. This often influences the style of the original speech.

Furthermore, the reader always adds their interpretations and experiences into the mix. These will necessarily change with every reading, because even the same reader will have evolved since the last reception, having engaged in new interactions and read other texts. All this will necessarily influence the reader’s interpretation of the report. The transformative nature of reporting is echoed in professional approaches that view reporting as, for example, intralingual translation, entextualisation, paraphrasing and versioning.

This duality between repeating and recreating highlights the fundamental tension in all reporting: it is, in a way, transformative conservation, a dynamic rendition of discourse history. This means that objective or “perfect” reporting is impossible, even though it is a useful ideal to strive for.

Even though reporting is, in some sense, impossible, it is also necessary. Even considering all the challenges, there is no other choice for us than to just try to understand the needs of our audience(s), choose our goals, accept our limits – and do the best we can.

This issue of Tiro digs deep into the challenges and complexities of professional reporting and transcription. This time the majority of articles focus on diverse aspects of parliamentary reporting but, within this context, they tackle several themes that are relevant to all fields of professional reporting and transcription.

The first articles concentrate on reporting practices and training to master them. In my article, I concentrate on two central approaches to official reporting – transcription and narration – and how they are implemented in the formal sections of the Finnish parliamentary report. Michael Ejstrup introduces us to Sprogbasen, the electronic reference work that is used to ensure systematic linguistic and editorial practices in the reporting office of the Danish Parliament. Tony Minichiello introduces us to the organised and systematic way in which staff are trained to report the select committees in the House of Commons, UK.

The next two articles focus on language policy and linguistic accessibility. Adrian M. Kelly describes how bilingualism, namely alternating between Irish and English language speeches, is treated in the official report of the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament. Euphraat Mngadi, in turn, makes an exciting initiative in planning the best way to report sign language in the parliamentary report of South Africa.

Technological innovations are by now a regular topic in Tiro’s issues. Cameron Smith and Kenneth Reid continue this timely discussion by analysing the introduction of AI-based automatic speech recognition software to the substantially verbatim report in the Scottish Parliament. Lars Busch Nielsenshows us how the Danish Parliament has since as early as 2007 been at the forefront of using respeaking to make its official report. Alessandra Checcarelli turns the focus on to live reporting and subtitling and discusses what kind of future the fast development of artificial intelligence and computer-assisted interpreting might hold for these professions.

Professional reporting and transcription are intricately connected to many neighbouring disciplines. One of them is audiovisual translation. Luz Belenguer-Cortés demonstrates this in her book review of Reverter Oliver and his colleagues’ edited academic volume about the field. Since the book is in Spanish, the review is also a valuable contribution as a brief report to English-speaking audiences about its essential contents. Our issue is finished by Carlo Eugeni’s regular column, where he discusses different strategies in diamesic translation, or speech-to-text reporting. Drawing from several thought-provoking sources, he demonstrates how complex and delicate even seemingly simple reporting activities inherently are.

Eero Voutilainen is Tiro’s editor-in-chief.

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  • Luigi Zambelli


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