Article published in:Approaches to Variation in Creole Studies
Edited by Isabelle Léglise, Bettina Migge and Nicolas Quint
[Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 36:1] 2021
► pp. 175–200
‘Ou ni right-la pou remain silans’
The case for a standard Kwéyòl translation of the pre-trial right to silence
Although in recent years researchers have intensified focus on the communication of the pre-trial right to silence or police caution to native and non-native speakers of English, most of this research has been concerned with linguistic complexity, comprehension, and comprehensibility issues. Relatively few studies have focused attention on the role played by the deliverer of the caution in the communicative equation (Cotterill 2000), particularly in situations where the caution has to be interpreted or translated by its deliverer. Drawing on a sociolinguistic variation approach, this study investigates the communication of the police caution to creole speakers, who remain nearly invisible in the research to date. It uses the categories of literal and free translation as tools to analyze spontaneous translations of the caution from English to French lexicon Creole (Kwéyòl) produced by (n = 25) police officers in St. Lucia. The results show considerable variability in these translations, which may have negative consequences for the accused. This study seeks to draw attention to these consequences, by underscoring some of the inaccuracies that may occur in translating or interpreting a caution written in English to Kwéyòl, and make a case for policy that would use the language of the accused in situations of language variation. The study argues that such a policy, which standardizes the Kwéyòl version of the caution, would not only obviate the potential for variability, but would also minimize misunderstandings, which could compromise the legal rights of the suspect.
Keywords: right to silence, Kwéyòl speakers, police officers, translation, variation, St. Lucia
Published online: 25 March 2021
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