An Examination of Medical Interview Questions Rendered in American Sign Language by Deaf Physicians and Interpreters

Laurie Swabey, Brenda Nicodemus, Christopher Moreland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In the healthcare system of the United States, signed language interpreters frequently facilitate communication between deaf individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) and their nonsigning physicians. A small but growing number of deaf individuals are pursuing medical training and becoming physicians, creating an opportunity for some deaf patients to communicate directly with their doctors in ASL. In addition to providing direct access for deaf patients, this also creates a situation in which it is possible to examine the linguistic features used by deaf bilingual physicians. We analyzed 18 ASL translations of three common medical interview questions as produced by both deaf physicians (n = 3) and experienced ASL-English interpreters (n = 3). Results indicate that the physicians and the interpreters consistently utilized contextualization, contrasting, and specifi cation in their translations but showed variability in the production of these discourse features. We provide an overview of the current state of ASL-English healthcare interpreting, examine challenges in creating ASL translations of common medical interview questions, provide descriptions and samples of the ASL translations, and discuss patterns in the data. Our aim in this investigation is to better describe and understand how typical medical questions are translated into ASL as a step toward the ultimate goal of improving healthcare communication for deaf patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInvestigations in Healthcare Interpreting
PublisherProject Muse
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781563686146
ISBN (Print)9781563686122
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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