Constructing causation in language and memory: implications for access to justice in multilingual interactions
Keywords:witness interviews, causation events, English vs. Spanish, translation, memory
AbstractCan witness memory be different for speakers of different languages? English and Spanish differ significantly in the expression of causal intentionality, and this study explores the possibility that the systematic ambiguity of English causation constructions (e.g. ‘She dropped the keys’) detracts from memory of intentionality in causation events, while the consistent tendency to differentiate intentional from non-intentional events in Spanish can result in an advantage for memory. Results from a recall memory experiment suggest that the language-guided habit of paying explicit linguistic attention to this distinction in Spanish positively affects witness memory, while the lack of pressure to explicitly determine intentionality in expressions of causation in English conditions diminishes recall for this component in causation events. The results of this empirical study are placed in the context of their relevance for: a) access to justice in multilingual investigative interviewing and b) more efficient obtaining of information in translation assisted communication and c) methodological advances in forensic linguistics and related academic and professional areas.
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