METM17 presentation

Editing transcriptions of international leadership meetings: the delicate task of discerning what is of essence to the readers

Amanda Murphy, Milan, Italy
A group of professionals from different European countries regularly meet in Milan as a leadership community. They attend workshops organized by a dynamic young company specializing in innovation and change management. The working language is English: everyone can speak it, some are proficient and others struggle. The guests holding the workshops are inspiring: a crime writer, a photographer, an artist, professors of management, psychology and history of art. The meetings are recorded, filmed and transcribed, and because the exchanges are original, the ideas fly, the community takes shape. However, the transcriptions, though graphically well presented, do not work.

This contribution problematizes the task of editing (or transediting) the transcriptions of the meetings. (In this context, editing could be defined as the revision of language to produce a clear, grammatically correct text, maintaining the original intended message, so that a reader who was not present at the event could understand it clearly from the written account.)
Michelangelo described sculpture as the art of getting rid of what is not useful. Reducing a complete communicative event to a written text requires discernment of its communicative essence, but this can be complicated by external factors. For example, the company invites famous international guests, who may not be pleased to have their English re-manipulated. The company CEO needs to save face and remain the leader driving the event, also in the ensuing written account. Certain cuts of portions of text may be opportune only from one point of view, and not in tune with the overall communicative function of the text. 
The paper will offer two versions of the same transcription (raw and revised). I will posit that the raw version of the text belongs to the speakers, and the revised text to both speaker and editor, unless specified otherwise by contract. As an example of the issues that arise, I will point out how features of spontaneous spoken and dialogic language, intonation, laughter, repetition and simplified international English are weighed against the principles of clarity, sentence structure and native English collocations and held up against the readers and the context. Thus, at the end, there will be a brief opportunity for participant interaction with me and with the text.
Essential bibliography
Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage.
 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cutts, M. (2007). Oxford Guide to Plain English (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harris, J. (2006). Rewriting, How to Do Things with Texts. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.
Lefevere, A. (1992). Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. London and New York: Routledge.
Stetting, K. (1989). Transediting – a new term for coping with the grey area between editing and translating. In: Caie, G., Haastrup, K., Jakobsen, A.L., Nielsen, J.E., Sevaldsen, J., Specht, H., & Zettersten, A. (eds). Proceedings from the Fourth Nordic Conference for English Studies. Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen, pp. 371-382.
Williams, J.M. (2007). Style. Lessons in Clarity and Grace (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Longman.

Amanda C. Murphy studied modern languages at Cambridge University, UK, and at the State University in Milan, Italy, and applied English and Italian linguistics at Birmingham University, UK. She is based in Milan, where she is a professor of English language and translation at both the Milan and Brescia sites of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Her broad research interests include corpus linguistics, translation and editing, English as a medium of instruction in education (CLIL and EMI), and art and literature concerning the Roman Veronica, the portrait of Christ on cloth, which was famous in the Middle Ages.