Interpreters’ treatment of questions during consecutively interpreted interactions in Zimbabwean courtrooms

  • Paul Svongoro
  • Kim Wallmach


This article analyses how interpreters dealt with various forms of questions used by different court players during consecutively interpreted rape trials in Zimbabwean courtrooms in their renditions. The data for this article are extracts selected from 19 cases of alleged rape heard in English at two regional courts in Harare and Mutare, Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwean courtrooms, all serious cases like rape, are audio-recorded for record purposes and for review at the High Court. Audio-recorded interpreter-mediated interactions were subsequently transcribed into the written form by the researchers with the assistance of transcribers from the mentioned courts for purposes of analysis. The extracts were then analysed to examine (1) how courtroom questioning is done through an interpreter; (2) whether participants’ power to ask questions and manipulate the questions in order to exercise control over other participants is reduced or lost when the questioning is performed through an interpreter; and (3) whether the ‘coerciveness’ of courtroom questions in Zimbabwean courtrooms could be explained in the same way as reported in other studies. The researchers argue, among other issues, that through the use of various question forms, the power of a participant, and thus his/her control over a triadic exchange, is realised not only in the role(s) he/she is capable of playing, but also through the participant roles of the co-present court actors.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117