Frontiers in Psychology (2017-12-01)

Dependency Distance Differences across Interpreting Types: Implications for Cognitive Demand

  • Junying Liang,
  • Yuanyuan Fang,
  • Qianxi Lv,
  • Haitao Liu,
  • Haitao Liu,
  • Haitao Liu

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8


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Interpreting is generally recognized as a particularly demanding language processing task for the cognitive system. Dependency distance, the linear distance between two syntactically related words in a sentence, is an index of sentence complexity and is also able to reflect the cognitive constraints during various tasks. In the current research, we examine the difference in dependency distance among three interpreting types, namely, simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting and read-out translated speech based on a treebank comprising these types of interpreting output texts with dependency annotation. Results show that different interpreting renditions yield different dependency distances, and consecutive interpreting texts entail the smallest dependency distance other than those of simultaneous interpreting and read-out translated speech, suggesting that consecutive interpreting bears heavier cognitive demands than simultaneous interpreting. The current research suggests for the first time that interpreting is an extremely demanding cognitive task that can further mediate the dependency distance of output sentences. Such findings may be due to the minimization of dependency distance under cognitive constraints.