jueves, 15 de septiembre de 2011


Definition - “Legal and Administrative Terminology” is the language in which laws and other
regulations, judicial decisions, treaties and documents of all descriptions, administrative
documents and treatises on law and administration are framed. It is characterized by
technical terms and by the use of words, syntax and style peculiar to itself. It is used by
jurists and administrators in the daily exercise of their profession.

Technical language and common language

The respective terms are defined as follows: “Common language is the linguistic
subsystem within a ‘natural language’ understood by all users of that respective language.”
“Technical language is a ‘language’ based on a ‘natural language’, but designed to reduce
ambiguities for the purpose of assisting communication in a specific field of knowledge.”

Although the difference between common language and technical language is quite
obvious, one cannot always clearly distinguish between common and technical language.
In our daily work, almost all of us are faced with a flux of neologisms appearing in
practically all spheres of knowledge. Numerous terms, originally strictly confined to
technical language, became common property in the course of time and thus belong
nowadays to both common and technical language. The only safe criterion for the proper
classification of such terms is to establish from which field of knowledge the term in
question originated.

But even in the field of legal and administrative language itself, there are similar
differences in respect of the relationship between common and technical language. For
example, there are numerous terms of a general nature such as law, order, administration,
etc., which are common to all legal and administrative sectors, and are also used in
common language. Other terms, such as declaratory judgment, notification of seizure, writ
of habeas corpus, etc., refer to special branches of the legal and administrative language,
so that one differentiates between a ‘general’ and a ‘special’ legal and administrative
technical language.

There are, however, still other problems connected with differentiation between
legal and administrative terminology and other technical languages. This applies
particularly to the field of economics, a special field which is in many respects closely
related to numerous sectors of commercial law as a whole.

Historical development, usage and peculiarities of legal and administrative language

The development of a particular and administrative language began with the gradual
change from Primitive Law -i.e., the law of peoples whose culture does not include the art
of writing- to Civilized Law - i.e, the law of peoples whose culture has developed to the
point that it does include writing. In the course of time -analogous with the development of
individual state systems- individual divisions of law -e.g., constitutional law, civil law,
criminal law, common law, etc. - developed, all coining technical languages of their own.
Legal and administrative language, therefore, contains quite a number of archaic terms of speech, idioms and phrases which are still in use and valid in our present day and time.
This is mainly due to the advanced age of the legal and administrative sources originating from Roman and Anglo-Saxon law and other ancient legal systems. Nowadays, numerous old terms and phrases intermix with the flux of new laws and administrative rules using modern language, a fact which has a detrimental effect upon the homogeneity of legal and administrative terminology. Up to now, all endeavours to remedy this evil were in vain. This is primarily due to the fact that the courts and administrations are bound to interpret and apply the formulæ contained in laws and regulations as precisely and verbatim as stated there.

Besides the lack of homogeneity, legal and administrative texts are, as a rule, inadequate
in terms of style. This is due to the fact that material content and clarity of legal and
administrative texts have priority over good style. The essential thing is to prevent the
danger of altering the meaning of a text or offering possibilities for misinterpretation when
wording such texts from the very outset. Furthermore, almost all legal and administrative
texts are normally the result of cooperation between several authorities and bodies and
therefore subject to numerous changes and additions during their draft stage. This is the
reason why style and even syntax of such legal and administrative texts very often lack
harmony. For translators of legal and administrative texts, for example, it is very important
that they should strictly confine themselves to the style and style level of the original text in
the source language (…………..), also paying attention to the form of the document,
because form-dependent documents and papers are prescribed in almost all fields of law
and administration, particularly in the procedural law sector, e.g, civil proceedings, criminal
procedures, administrative court procedures, etc.

The phrases contained in legal and administrative texts are mostly terms of speech and
idioms normally used by courts and public authorities. Quite a number of such parts of
speech and idioms are based upon archaic terms and phrases originating from ancient
laws, rules, documents, papers, etc.

The English language is particularly rich in such archaic terms, which in most cases
originate from Roman and Anglo-Saxon law. Let’s mention here but a few examples: to wit,
witnesseth, in consideration of, know all men by these presents, etc. Such archaic forms
of expression are often difficult to understand and translate; the reader, or the student, or
even the professional, is sometimes faced with difficulties and finds himself at a loss for
proper equivalents, because not all of these terms are listed in technical dictionaries or
glossaries and very often old sources of reference are to be consulted in order to clarify
the meaning of the respective word or phrase. Another characteristic feature of legal and
administrative texts is the abstract and impersonal style they show. This is due to the fact
that any official decision should be exemplary for all similar cases; therefore, the wording
of such texts must be abstract and impersonal.

Besides, the legal and the linguistic interpretation differ in two essential points: the prime
task of the jurist is to find the legal consequence of the wording of the text, while the
translator’s task is to translate a text as precisely as possible, finding the linguistic
equivalents which in their legal relevance correspond to both the original tone of the
source language and the translated version into the target language.-

Interpretation and technique of translating legal and administrative texts.

As in all other fields of knowledge, the translation of an administrative text depends on the
translator’s full understanding and comprehension of the subject matter in question. This
requirement is a 'sine qua non’ for the sworn court interpreter and translator who have to
fulfill a responsible task within the framework of judicature and public administration. The
interpretation of legal texts is an art in itself, an art requiring a profound knowledge in the
field of law and administration. Since ancient times, jurisprudence has known two methods
of interpretation which differ from each other: one theory sees the main source of
interpretation in the word laid down in writing in order to go to the bottom of the term and
discover its meaning, whilst the other theory endeavors to find out the will and intention of
the writer.

The translator is, however, also faced with a linguistic problem, legal and linguistic
interpretation differ in two essential points; the prime task of the jurist, is to find the legal
consequence of the wording of the text, whilst the translator's main task is to translate a
text as precisely as possible. He has to find the linguistic equivalents which in their legal
relevance correspond to both the original tone of the source language and the translated
text of the target language. Owing to the legal validity of such papers, special care should
always be taken in the judgment and selection of proper equivalent legal terms and
phrases, particularly in consideration of the existing difference between legal and
administrative systems.

As far as the translation of legal and administrative texts is concerned, one is well advised
to observe strictly the following principles and rules:

Stage 1 - Carefully study the original text in the source language in order to familiarize
oneself with the subject matter in question.

Stage 2 - Ascertainment of the respective special field of law and administration by
establishing the legal object in question.

Stage 3 - In the case of any term or phrase being unknown to the translator: Search into
equivalent terms or phrases in both the source and target language by checking and
cross-checking their proper meaning in general works of reference, special works of
reference, original texts and commentaries (in order to establish the meaning of such
terms and phrases in the context of relevant literature), general and specialized
dictionaries and glossaries, formulae books and forms, bibliographies and monolingual and
bilingual books, periodicals, etc. In this context, the translator should not hesitate to consult
an expert or experts who are familiar with the special subject terminology in question, in
order to make sure of rendering an absolutely faithful translation.

Stage 4 - Draft of the translation and re-examination of the final execution in terms of
proper terminology, style, syntax, grammar, punctuation, etc., before certifying and
delivering the document or paper.

In this connection, special attention should be paid to the translation of legal documents,
one of the main objects of the authorized translator's work, as such legal documentary
translations normally serve as evidence for presentation to courts and public authorities.
For this purpose, the translations of such documents have to be certified by an officially
appointed and/or authorized translator. These documents must therefore remain in terms of
translation within narrative limits; this refers in particular to their style and terminology.
Owing to the myriad archaic terms of speech, idioms and phrases contained in such
papers, this is the very group of papers which requires a specially careful treatment to
ensure proper and equivalent translation.

Yet nevertheless, even the translator of documents and legal papers should use modern
language as far as possible; archaic terms of speech, idioms and phrases should only be
rendered if there exists no proper equivalent in our present-day language.

Hans Schwartz
Adapted from "Legal and Administrative Language in Babel #1/1977 XVIII by T.P. Beatriz Sosa and T.P. Mercedes Ugarte

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario