A cognitive investigation of ‘chunking’ and ‘reordering’ for coping with word-order asymmetry in English-to-Chinese sight translation: Evidence from an eye-tracking study

Xingcheng Ma, Dechao Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Word-order asymmetry between source language and target language has been recognized as a major obstacle in interpreting. Regarding whether the original word order is changed in target production, two strategies for asymmetrical structures are identified: chunking and reordering. This study primarily examined the cognitive mechanism involved in applying these two strategies during English to Chinese sight translation. The cognitive load associated with chunking and reordering was measured by eye movement and the resulting data were analysed. A group of interpreting trainees sight-translated asymmetrical sentences in two contexts: sentence and text. Their eye-movement measures, including total dwell time, fixation count and rereading rate, were recorded. The results demonstrate that chunking was the primary strategy used to render word-order asymmetry in both task conditions. A greater cognitive load was found in the reordered sentences. More contextual information did not contribute to an execution of the strategies that required less effort. This research is one of the first attempts to explore the cognitive process associated with interpreting strategies for word-order asymmetry. It provides a new perspective with which to deepen our understanding of the cognitive mechanism underlying the use of a strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-221
Number of pages30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2021


  • Chunking
  • Eye-tracking
  • Reordering
  • Sight translation
  • Word-order asymmetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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