Dr Elena Davitti

Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies
BA and MA (Bologna at Forlì), PhD (Manchester)
+44 (0)1483 689968
05 LC 03
Semester 1: Tuesdays 12-13 and Wednesdays 12-13


Areas of specialism

Hybrid interpreting modalities; Interlingual respeaking; Live subtitling via speech recognition; Real-time interlingual speech-to-text transfer; Interpreting and technologies; Video-mediated and mobile interpreting; Multimodal, communicative and interactional dynamics of interpreting; Innovations in interpreter education

University roles and responsibilities

  • Programme Leader of MA Interpreting (Multilingual Pathway)
  • Programme Leader of MA Translation and Interpreting

    My qualifications

    PhD in Translation and Intercultural Studies
    University of Manchester
    MA in Conference Interpreting
    University of Bologna at Forlì
    BA in Liaison Interpreting and Translation
    University of Bologna at Forlì

    Affiliations and memberships

    Co-founder and member of LARIM (Research Laboratory on Interpreter-mediated Interaction), UNINT, Rome, Italy
    Member of A:IM (Interuniversity Centre for the Analysis of Interaction and Mediation), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy


    Postgraduate research supervision

    My publications


    Sabine Braun, Elena Davitti, Catherine Slater (2020)'It's like being in bubbles': affordances and challenges of virtual learning environments for collaborative learning in interpreter education, In: The interpreter and translator trainer14(3)pp. 259-278 Routledge
    We report on a study evaluating the educational opportunities that highly multimodal and interactive Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) provide for collaborative learning in the context of interpreter education. The study was prompted by previous research into the use of VLEs in interpreter education, which showed positive results but which focused on preparatory or ancillary activities and/or individual interpreting practice. The study reported here, which was part of a larger project on evaluating the use of VLEs in educating interpreters and their potential clients, explored the affordances of a videoconferencing platform and a 3D virtual world for collaborative learning in the context of dialogue interpreting. The participants were 13 student-interpreters, who conducted role-play simulations in both environments. Through a mix of methods such as non-participant observation, reflective group discussions, linguistic analysis of the recorded simulations, and a user experience survey several dimensions of using the VLEs were explored including the linguistic/discursive dimension (interpreting), the interactional dimension (communication management between the participants), the ergonomic dimension (human-computer interaction) and the psychological dimension (user experience, sense of presence). Both VLEs were found to be capable of supporting situated and autonomous learning in the interpreting context, although differences arose regarding the reported user experience.
    In an age where technological advancements are providing people with new forms of communication, or increasing the communicative potential of forms previously available, translation is an activity which is growing more and more complex and cannot be accounted for in linguistic terms only. Translation Studies has traditionally dealt with meaning as a linguistic product; however, source texts nowadays very often include resources like images and/or sounds, which interact with the linguistically communicated message, considerably affecting meaning. More accurately, it can be said that linguistic, visual and aural meaning influence each other and create a multimodal message whose interpretation requires different types of literacy and the ability to combine them. Appropriate models analysing multimodal texts, however, are still missing. Furthermore, as no area of translation has been left untouched by the multimodal phenomenon, future translators need to be competent ‘readers’ of multimodal texts. However, the theoretical resources available to train translators are mostly concerned with texts in which the message is communicated verbally; this creates a gap between translation theory and practice as well as a gap between the training translators receive and the reality of the translation industry they need to face, in which translators find themselves working on texts where the message is communicated by more than ‘just’ words. Addressing these gaps, the main aim of this work is to develop a new model for source text analysis for translation purposes. The model brings together aspects of meaning production as it is viewed in Pragmatics, Multimodality, Translation and Semiotics and merges them in a single theoretical framework that can be applied to the analysis of any multimodal source text in order to gain a better understanding of how it conveys meaning. The model aims to contribute to a better general understanding of meaning not just as a linguistic, but as a multimodal product and it is also proposed as a theoretical resource for trainee translators.
    Song translation has only recently become an area of interest for research purposes, with the development of studies on opera, films, folk music, cover songs, and more. Not many scholars have researched stage musicals, generally considered less prestigious and more commercial than opera. However, songs play a fundamental role in this type of performance, conveying meaning via verbal, audio and visual semiotic resources. Although a few studies on lyrics translation in stage musicals can be identified, such as Low’s (2003, 2005) Pentathlon Approach and Franzon’s (2005) functional approach, they do not seem to focus on the interaction between modes that is typical of this genre. These models of translation offer valuable guidelines on how to treat the lyrics, but what is missing is a systematic and multimodal model of analysis that can be applied to the song in its entirety. This research aims to develop a model of analysis that takes into account the complexity of songs. A new approach based on the identification of themes will allow for a more holistic view of the song and of its content. The application of the model to a selection of musicals shows how verbal, audio and visual semiotic resources interact to create meaning, establishing relations of addition, enhancement and modification with each other. The findings provide a clearer understanding of songs of stage musicals, opening up more possibilities for translators approaching this genre, and suggesting the value of a collaborative approach between translator, director and creative team in the adaptation of stage musicals.
    Despite the vast research on simultaneous interpreting in different settings, little is known about interpreting practices in the field of TV, particularly between Arabic and English. The recent events of the Arab Spring led to more reliance on simultaneous interpreting for broadcasting presidential speeches live to audiences worldwide. Emotive overtones were a salient feature in the Arabic-language speeches and posed challenges to the TV interpreters who had to handle other difficulties and constraints involved in the task. The current study aims to investigate the way TV interpreters, who worked in the simultaneous mode, handled the task of conveying the emotive overtones employed in Arabic-language political speeches into English. It also aims to examine the difficulties and challenges that emerged during this process and might have influenced the interpreters’ choices. The study also evaluates the way the TV interpreters handled this task and whether the original emotive effect was maintained, upgraded, downgraded or abandoned in their renditions. To achieve its aims, the study analysed a corpus of four Arabic presidential political speeches delivered during the Arab Spring, along with their English simultaneous interpretations produced by different international TV stations. The analysis relied on a macro framework and a micro framework. The macro framework presents an overview of the wider context of the Arabic-language speeches and the individual speakers to help understand the linguistic choices made by the speakers. The micro framework investigates the linguistic tools which were employed by the speakers to stir people’s emotions. The study analyses the Arabic-language speeches through applying emotive categories which are based on Shamaa’s (1978) classification of emotive meaning according to their linguistic level: phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic and lexical levels. The micro level also investigates the strategies which were used by the TV interpreters to render the emotive linguistic tools into English. By adopting a qualitative approach, the study aims to contribute to a better understanding of TV simultaneous interpreting between Arabic and English, as well as the practices of TV interpreters when working into their B language and rendering emotiveness.
    In the last two decades, Dialogue Interpreting (DI) has been studied extensively through the lenses of discourse analysis and conversation analysis. As a result, DI has been recognised as an interactional communicative event, in which all the participants jointly and actively collaborate. Nevertheless, most of these studies focused merely on the verbal level of interaction, whereas its multimodal dimension has not received much attention so far, and the literature on this subject is still scarce and dispersed. By analysing and comparing two sequences, taken from a corpus of face-to-face interpreter-mediated encounters in pedagogical settings, this study aims at showing how multimodal analysis can contribute to a deeper understanding of the interactional dynamics of DI. In particular, the paper shows how participants employ multimodal resources (gaze, gesture, body position, proxemics, object manipulation) to co-construct different participation frameworks throughout the encounters, and how the “ecology of action” (i.e., the relationships between the participants and the surrounding environment) influences the development of interaction.
    Quality in interpreting has been investigated from different perspectives with the main focus being put on conference interpreting. Little research has been conducted on assessing the quality of interpreting in public service settings, more specifically, in legal settings, and in particular within police interpreting. The introduction of the Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and the European Council, which was established with the intention of strengthening language rights, was a positive development that put more emphasis on quality in legal interpreting, calling for improved quality standards along with more research into interpreting quality in public service interpreting contexts. In the United Kingdom, the introduction of the Framework Agreement for interpreting and translation services has not helped to implement the Directive. The dilution of existing standards and procedures for interpreter recruitment in the legal setting, has had drastic effects on interpreting quality and service provision. Therefore, research is imperative, especially research into factors that influence interpreting quality in public service interpreting, in order to create an evidence base. In this context, this experimental study based on simulated data examines the quality of interpreting in the police setting by analysing the performance of interpreters with different professional profiles. It seeks to determine the factors that influence the quality of interpreting and establish links between interpreters’ profiles and their performance. To achieve its aims, the study includes nine interpreters and adopts a multi-method approach, combining qualitative and quantitative empirical investigations of the interpreters’ performance (output quality) with data elicited in reflective sessions and a questionnaire-based analysis of the interpreters’ profiles. The study employs pre-experiment questionnaires that provide information on interpreters’ backgrounds, it analyses the interpreters’ performance in simulated police-suspect interviews against a set of criteria that were devised to evaluate interpreting quality in the legal context. It also employs post-experiment retrospective think-aloud protocols to gain additional insights into the interpreters’ decision-making mechanisms. Through employing a multi-method approach and by creating a model for assessing the quality in the legal settings, the present study complements and extends recent studies on police interpreting conducted by Böser (2013), Braun (2013) or Gallai (2017) and provides a better understanding of factors which influence the quality of interpreting.
    Sabine Braun, Elena Davitti, Sara Dicerto (2018)Video-Mediated Interpreting in Legal Settings: Assessing the Implementation, In: Here or there: research on interpreting via video linkpp. 144-179 Gallaudet
    This chapter reports the key findings of the European AVIDICUS 3 project,1 which focused on the use of video-mediated interpreting in legal settings across Europe. Whilst judicial and law enforcement authorities have turned to videoconferencing to minimise delays in legal proceedings, reduce costs and improve access to justice, research into the use of video links in legal proceedings has called for caution. Sossin and Yetnikoff (2007), for example, contend that the availability of financial resources for legal proceedings cannot be disentangled from the fairness of judicial decision-making. The Harvard Law School (2009: 1193) warns that, whilst the use of video links may eliminate delays, it may also reduce an individual’s “opportunity to be heard in a meaningful manner”. In proceedings that involve an interpreter, procedural fairness and “the opportunity to be heard in a meaningful manner” are closely linked to the quality of the interpretation. The use of video links in interpreter-mediated proceedings therefore requires a videoconferencing solution that provides optimal support for interpreting as a crucial prerequisite for achieving the ultimate goal, i.e. fairness of justice. Against this backdrop, the main aim of AVIDICUS 3 was to identify institutional processes and practices of implementing and using video links in legal proceedings and to assess them in terms of how they accommodate and support bilingual communication mediated through an interpreter. The focus was on spoken-language interpreting. The project examined 12 European jurisdictions (Belgium, Croatia, England and Wales, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Scotland, Spain and Sweden). An ethnographic approach was adopted to identify relevant practices, including site visits, in-depth and mostly in-situ interviews with over 100 representatives from different stakeholder groups, observations of real-life proceedings, and the analysis of a number of policy documents produced in the justice sector. The chapter summarises and systematises the findings from the jurisdictions included in this study. The assessment focuses on the use of videoconferencing in both national and cross-border proceedings, and covers different applications of videoconferencing in the legal system, including its use for links between courts and remote participants (e.g. witnesses, defendants in prison) and its use to access interpreters who work offsite (see Braun 2015; Skinner, Napier & Braun in this volume).
    E. Davitti (2019)Healthcare Interpreting, In: Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies Routledge
    Elena Davitti, Annalisa Sandrelli Embracing the Complexity: a pilot study on Interlingual Respeaking, In: Journal of Audiovisual Translation European Association for Studies in Screen Translation
    This paper presents the key findings of the pilot phase of SMART (Shaping Multilingual Access though Respeaking Technology), a multidisciplinary international project focusing on interlingual respeaking (IRSP) for real-time speech-to-text. SMART addresses key questions around IRSP feasibility, quality and competences. The pilot project is based on experiments involving 25 postgraduate students who performed two IRSP tasks (English-Italian) after a crash course. The analysis triangulates subtitle accuracy rates with participants’ subjective ratings and retrospective self-analysis. The best performers were those with a composite skillset, including interpreting/subtitling and interpreting/subtitling/respeaking. Participants indicated multitasking, time-lag, and monitoring of the speech recognition software output as the main difficulties; together with the great variability in performance, personal traits emerged as likely to affect performance. This pilot lays the conceptual and methodological foundations for a larger project involving professionals, to address a set of urgent questions for the industry.
    Elena Davitti, Sergio Pasquandrea (2018)Integrating authentic data in dialogue interpreting education: A teaching unit proposal, In: inTRAlinea. Special Issue: Translation And Interpreting for Language Learners Department of Interpreting and Translation (DIT) of the University of Bologna, Italy
    In the last two decades, empirical research has shed light on the interactional dynamics of Dialogue Interpreting (DI). Nevertheless, it remains unclear how the results of such research can be effectively integrated in interpreter education. This paper outlines a semester long module, in which research on DI is employed for teaching purposes. During the module, students are introduced to relevant literature and exposed to different case studies of interpreter-mediated interaction, based on authentic data. The aim is to create an understanding of the interpreter ’s role and conduct in a variety of communicative situations, and help students identify the challenges that may arise in interpreter-mediated interaction. Implications for current codes of conduct are also discussed.
    E Davitti, S Pasquandrea (2014)Enhancing research-led interpreter education: an exploratory study in Applied Conversation Analysis, In: INTERPRETER AND TRANSLATOR TRAINER8(3)pp. 374-398 ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD
    In recent years, conversation analysts have developed a growing interest in the Applied branch of Conversation Analysis (CA). Authors such as Antaki, Heritage and Richards and Seedhouse have explored the practical applications of CA in institutional contexts, to shed light on their dynamics and to suggest improvements in the services provided. On the other hand, over the past two decades, interactionally oriented methodologies have been successfully applied to the study of interpreter-mediated interaction. Nevertheless, the potential of CA for interpreter training has not been fully explored, especially with regard to the impact of multimodal semiotic resources (gaze, gesture, posture) on triadic communication. This paper illustrates the results of an exploratory study in Applied CA conducted within a postgraduate interpreting module at an Italian university. Four different extracts of interpreter-mediated encounters, video-recorded in real-life settings, were submitted to the students in order to test their reactions, guide them in analysis and raise their awareness of the problems and challenges posed by real-life scenarios. Through the triangulation of findings from recorded classroom discussion and questionnaires, the present paper discusses the implications of using CA in interpreter education.
    E Davitti (2015)Gaze, In: Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studiespp. 168-168 Routledge
    The Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies is the authoritative reference for anyone with an academic or professional interest in interpreting. Drawing on the expertise of an international team of specialist contributors, this single-volume reference presents the state of the art in interpreting studies in a much more fine-grained matrix of entries than has ever been seen before. For the first time all key issues and concepts in interpreting studies are brought together and covered systematically and in a structured and accessible format. With all entries alphabetically arranged, extensively cross-referenced and including suggestions for further reading, this text combines clarity with scholarly accuracy and depth, defining and discussing key terms in context to ensure maximum understanding and ease of use. Practical and unique, this Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies presents a genuinely comprehensive overview of the fast growing and increasingly diverse field of interpreting studies.
    E Davitti, S Pasquandrea (2014)Dialogue Interpreting in Practice: Bridging the gap between empirical research and interpreter education, In: INTERPRETER AND TRANSLATOR TRAINER8(3)pp. 329-335 ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD
    Elena Davitti, Sabine Braun (2020)Analysing Interactional Phenomena in Video Remote Interpreting in Collaborative Settings: Implications for Interpreter Education, In: The Interpreter and Translator Trainer Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
    Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is a modality of interpreting where the interpreter interacts with the other parties-at-talk through an audiovisual link without sharing the same physical interactional space. In dialogue settings, existing research on VRI has mostly drawn on the analysis of verbal behaviour to explore the complex dynamics of these ‘triadic’ exchanges. However, understanding the complexity of VRI requires a more holistic analysis of its dynamics in different contexts as a situated, embodied activity where resources other than talk (such as gaze, gestures, head and body movement) play a central role in the co-construction of the communicative event. This paper draws on extracts from a corpus of VRI encounters in collaborative contexts (e.g. nurse-patient interaction, customer services) to investigate how specific interactional phenomena which have been explored in traditional settings of dialogue interpreting (e.g. turn management, dyadic sequences, spatial management) unfold in VRI. In addition, the paper will identify the coping strategies implemented by interpreters to deal with various challenges. This fine-grained, microanalytical look at the data will complement the findings provided by research on VRI in legal/adversarial contexts and provide solid grounds to evaluate the impact of different moves. Its systematic integration into training will lead to a more holistic approach to VRI education.
    E Davitti (2015)Interpreter-mediated parent-teacher talk, In: Linking Discourse Studies to Professional Practice(9)pp. 176-200 Multilingual Matters
    This book examines how researchers of discourse analysis could best disseminate their work in real world settings. The chapters include studies on spoken and written discourse using various analysis techniques, and the authors discuss how they could best engage professional practice in their work. Techniques used include Conversation Analysis in combination with other methods, genre analysis in combination with other methods, and Critical Discourse Analysis. Contributions are loosely grouped by setting and include the following settings: workplace and business; education; private and public; and government and media. The volume aims to link the end of research and the onset of praxis by creating collaboration with the places of practice, helping analysts to move forward with ideas for dissemination, collaboration and even intervention. The book will be of interest to all researchers conducting discourse analysis in professional settings.
    E Davitti (2016)Dialogue Interpreting as a Multimodal Activity in Community Settings, In: Multimodality Across Communicative Settings, Discourse Domains and Genrespp. 116-143 Cambridge Scholars Publishing
    This volume focuses on multimodality in various communicative settings, with special attention to how non-verbal elements reinforce and add meaning to verbal expressions. The first part of the book explores issues related to the use of multimodal resources in educational interactions and English language classroom teaching, also involving learners with disabilities. The second part, on the other hand, investigates multimodality as a key component of communication that takes place in different specialized domains and genres. The book reflects a variety of methodological approaches that are grounded in both quantitative and qualitative techniques. These include multimodal discourse analysis, multimodal transcription, and multimodal annotation software capable of representing the interplay of different semiotic modes, such as speech, intonation, direction of gaze, facial expressions, gestures and spatial positioning of interlocutors.
    Elena Davitti (2018)Methodological explorations of interpreter-mediated interaction: novel insights from multimodal analysis, In: Qualitative Research. Special Issue: Multimodality: Methodological Explorations19(1)pp. 7-29 SAGE Publications
    Research in Dialogue Interpreting (DI) has traditionally drawn on qualitative analysis of verbal behaviour to explore the complex dynamics of these ‘triadic’ exchanges. Less attention has been paid to interpreter-mediated interaction as a situated, embodied activity where resources other than talk (such as gaze, gestures, head and body movement, proxemics) play a central role in the co-construction of the communicative event. This article argues that understanding the complexity of DI requires careful investigation of the interplay between multiple interactional resources, i.e. verbal in conjunction with visual, aural, embodied and spatial meaning-making resources. This call for methodological innovation is strengthened by the emergence of video-mediated interpreting, where interacting via screens without sharing the same physical space adds a further layer of complexity to interactional dynamics. Drawing on authentic extracts from interpreter-mediated interaction, both face-to-face and video-mediated, this article problematizes how the integration of a multimodal perspective into qualitative investigation of interpreter-mediated interaction can contribute to the advancement of our understanding of key interactional dynamics in DI and, in turn, broaden the scope of multimodality to include new, uncharted territory.
    M Biagini, Elena Davitti, A Sandrelli (2016)Participation in Interpreter-Mediated Interaction: Shifting along a multidimensional continuum, In: Journal of Pragmatics107pp. 87-90 Elsevier
    M Olohan, E Davitti (2015)Dynamics of Trusting in Translation Project Management Leaps of Faith and Balancing Acts, In: Journal of Contemporary Ethnography: a journal of ethnographic research
    This paper examines the work of project managers in two UK-based translation companies. Drawing on participant observation, interviews, and artifacts from field sites, our analysis focuses on the ways in which trust is developed and maintained in the relationships that project managers build, on the one hand, with the clients who commission them to undertake translation projects, and, on the other, with freelance translators who perform the translation work. The project manager’s ability both to confer and to instill trust is highlighted as key to the successful operation of the company. Conceptualizing trust as a dynamic process, we consider what this process of trusting entails in this context: positive expectations visà-vis the other parties; willingness to expose oneself to vulnerabilities; construction of bases for suspending doubts and uncertainties (leaps of faith). We observe the important role of communication and discursive strategies in building and maintaining trust and draw conclusions for translator education.
    Research on dialogue interpreting shows that interpreters do not simply convey speech content, but also perform crucial coordinating and mediating functions. This descriptive study, which is based on PhD research conducted at the University of Manchester, explores the activity of qualified dialogue interpreters in three video-recorded parent-teacher meetings involving immigrant mothers. English and Italian are the languages used, the meetings having taken place in the UK (one case) and Italy (two cases). The study focuses on interpreters' handling of evaluative assessment, in many cases introduced by them in the target speech as an "upgrading rendition". Transcribed extracts are examined in a micro-analytical perspective, the dynamics of each actor's (dis)engagement towards interlocutors being studied in relation to gaze patterns annotated by dedicated software. Results show that the interpreter actively promotes alignment between the parties; however, s/he often does so by emphasising positive considerations to the mother. The outcome of this approach is that the mother accepts, but is not encouraged to co-construct a negotiated solution: she is assimilated, not empowered. © John Benjamins Publishing Company.