кафедры гражданского права, процесса и основ
предпринимательской деятельности ИвГУarticle_response@mail.ru
LEGAL AND LINGUISTIC ASPECTS OF
Active interaction of Russia with
countries of the world community raised a wide range of issues concerning
international business activities. Foreign and multinational corporations as
well as domestic companies are involved in international deals all over the
world. With rapid growth of international business transactions and,
consequently, international commercial disputes, the problems of legal
translating acquired vital importance.
Nowadays the English language has
become the language of choice for conducting an international business. In
addition, the English language has become prominent as the operational language
of many law firms and multinational corporations. Thus, interest in studying
English legal terminology and legal translating has recently grown up. In this
context, the article reviews general peculiarities of legal terms and focuses on
linguistic and legal aspects of translating English legal terminology.
legal terminology we have to determine the unit of this terminological system.
In this article we define a
term as a word or a
word combination belonging to the specific field of usage, either specially
created or borrowed for determining a specific concept and based on a
definition. In that way, "a legal term
is a word or a word combination which
stands for a general name of a legal concept, has a specific and definite
meaning, and is often used in legislation and legal documents" [6; 7, p.
Contemporary language of law makes
several requirements relating to legal terms that should be taken into
consideration in the process of translating. The legal term should meet the
following important requirements:
a) satisfy the rules and norms of a
b) be systematic,
c) correspond to a certain
definition oriented to a certain concept,
d) be relatively independent of the
e) be precise,
f) be as concise as
g) aim at one-to-one correspondence
(within the certain terminological system),
h) be expressively
i) be euphonical.
The language of law as a special
sublanguage has its own content and a set of specific characteristics which vary
depending on a language system. However, irrespective of a language, the major
part of its distinctive features and peculiarities are explained by the
influence of historical, cultural, social and political factors on the language
The English legal language is
characterized by a specific set of terms. First of all, it comprises numerous
Latin words and phrases (ex. lex loci
actus, res gestae, corpus delicti, lex domicilii, etc.). It also has words of the Old
and Middle English origin, including compounds which are no longer in common
hereinabove, hereafter, whereby, etc.). Besides, the English legal
language includes a large amount of words derived from French (appeal,
plaintiff, tort, lien, estoppel, verdict etc.). The language of law also
uses formal and ceremonial words (I do solemnly
swear, Your Honour, May it please the court...) and technical terms with precise
negligence, bail etc).
Thus, the present content of the English language of law is due to the influence
of different languages and that has a historical explanation [2, p. 386; 3; 5,
Russian legal terminology, we should keep in mind that it comprises fewer
borrowings and compounds than the English one. A considerable part of legal
terms is of a national origin including Old Russian (for example, истец, ответчик,
право). This may be
explained by the history of Russia and its legal system development as well. At
the same time, contemporary Russian legal language has been enriched by the new
law terms derived from English (лизинг -
corporate, факторинг - factoring etc.) [1; 3; 4]. Thus, English and
Russian legal languages are characterized by their own specific features which
are explained by the historical, political, social and cultural
with the language of law implies two forms of transferring from one language to
another – legal interpreting and legal translating.
Legal interpreting is meant for
people who come before the courts (litigants, defendants, witnesses etc.) and
who cannot communicate effectively in the language of legal procedures.
According to the law, individuals who do not communicate in the language of
legal proceedings have a right to speak their native language in court and use
the interpreting services. Similar regulations are provided by the new Russian
legislation - Arbitration Procedure Code (2002), the Civil Procedure Code (2002)
and the Criminal Procedure Code (2001). The interpreter's goal is to interpret
from one language to another everything what is said in court, preserving the
tone and level of the original language, adding and deleting nothing. The legal
interpretation should be adequate, complete and correct.
Legal translating first of all
implies translating legal documentation (laws, acts, judicial decisions, legal
rules, contracts, agreements, administrative papers and other law-related
documentation). This kind of translating has been recently prevailing in the
process of international relations development.
Faced with a legal text to
translate, a legal translator must deal with the dual challenge of language and
law, which he or she must reproduce as correctly as possible in the target
language. This complex procedure of transferring from one language to another
involves a number of risks inherent in language. That is why it is rather
difficult to transfer the entire message of the source text from one language to
another. Legal translation requires reproducing both form and content of the
legal text. The latter also implies transferring text from one legal system to
another. Therefore, legal translating is subject to various difficulties of
transferring a meaning of a legal term and a translator must strive for a
As it was mentioned before, any kind
of translation has to meet the principal requirements of adequacy, accuracy and
completeness. While accuracy and completeness are mainly aimed at the form of
the legal text, adequacy is referred to its content. Adequacy of the legal
translation is mostly achieved by following the principal rules of legal
terminology in the target language. Translating implies transferring the meaning
of the original, but not only the words.
While translating it is important to
know the legal terminology in both languages. The substitution of a legal term
of the source text by its synonym (a word of common usage) in the target
language may result in misinterpretation in terms of law. The distortion of a
meaning of a law term may influence upon legal consequences.
For example, the legal phrase
domiciled abroad" is
not equal to its Russian translation «зарубежная
проживающая за рубежом». The correct way to express the same
meaning in Russian legal terminology will be «сторона,
домицилированная за рубежом». It should be noted that a domicile
as a legal term means
"a place of permanent living" (if an individual is implied) or "a seat of a
corporation /a principle place of business" (if juridical person is implied),
while the general meaning of this word is "a place where someone lives" [1; 3;
4]. Besides, as the legal term party
either an individual person or juridical person/entity involved in a legal
agreement or dispute, the second way of incorrect translation mentioned above
relates only to an individual person and hence, is unequal to the legal term
used in the source text. Inadequate translation obviously may influence on the
objective evaluation of jural facts.
it should be taken into consideration that a legal translator or interpreter is
liable for the correctness, completeness and adequacy of his legal translating.
"The translator must appear before the court and translate completely, correctly
and in proper time" (the Arbitration Procedure Code of the Russian Federation,
2002: article 57 clause 4). On the one hand, the procedural codes mentioned
above provide criminal liability for a wittingly false translation (the
Arbitration Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, 2002: article 57 clause 6;
the Criminal procedure code of the Russian Federation, 2001: article 59 clause
5). On the other hand, interpreters are humans and making a mistake is possible.
When an interpreter unintentionally makes a mistake, he or she is obligated to
correct it immediately, and is expected to do the same in case of written legal
translating. The Russian law provides a right of a court interpreter to ask
questions in order to clarify the translation. Indeed, unprofessional (in its
legal sense) translation may cause injustices. Rarely, but some cases have
successfully been appealed because of interpreter issues.
Therefore, it is obvious that the
major drawback of traditional language training and document translation
services currently available is that these organizations have little or no
experience and knowledge of the law. In order to provide the effective
communication in English about specific legal concepts and ideas it is crucial
for legal translators and interpreters to have a profound knowledge of the legal
terminology in both languages.
All mentioned above allow us to
determine the essential requirements that provide excellence in legal
translating (interpreting) in the process of international communication. First,
one of the important requirements is a language proficiency which implies ample
vocabulary, knowledge of standard grammar and stylistic components of legal
language. The mastery of the target language must be equivalent to that of an
educated native speaker. Second, the high level of excellence requires
up-to-date knowledge of the subject material and legal terminology in both
languages. These are due to the translator's competence in legal language.
Third, understanding of the procedures used in court as well as familiarity with
principal legal concepts is necessary. In addition, a wide general knowledge,
mental and verbal agility of an interpreter contributes to the effective legal
translation as well.
Taking into consideration the
aforesaid, we come to a conclusion that legal translators and interpreters
should meet the essential requirements mentioned above in order to provide a
complete, correct and adequate translation. Deep knowledge of legal language and
proficiency in legal terminology of both languages are the main factors
providing the effective intercultural communication of legal professionals in
the process of international cooperation.
1. BBC English Dictionary. – Harper
Collins Publisher, Ltd. London, 1992.
2. Crystal D. The Cambridge
Encyclopedia of Language. – Cambridge, 1992.
4. English-Russian Law Dictionary/
Andrianov S.N., Berson A.S., Nikiforov A.S. – Russo Press: Moscow,
5. Ivanova L.I., Sheberstova T.B.
Peculiarities of the English Legal Term and Their Reflection in
Problems of Intercultural Communication (international conference materials).
ISUCT Press: Ivanovo, 2000.
6. Superanskaya A.V., Podolskaya
N.V., Vasilieva N.V. General
Terminology: Theoretical questions. – Moscow, 1989.
7. The Language
of Law /Pigolkin A.S. –
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may have: firstname.lastname@example.orgSheberstova Tatyana (Ivanovo State
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