Curriculum, language and the law

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Maria Spassova – Tim Grant

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona (Spain) – Aston University, Birmingham (UK) –
Categorizing Spanish Written Texts by Author Gender

and Origin by Means of Morpho-Syntactic Trigrams:

Some Observations on Method’s Feasibility of Application for Linguistic Profiling
This paper explores the applicability of morpho-syntactically annotated tag sequences(MATS) as a classification measure in Spanish written text categorization by author’s gender and origin. We base our hypothesis that MATS can effectively function as discriminant feature in categorization by author gender on previous studies reporting lexical and syntactic differences between male and female writing. The same distinction is described in related literature as characteristic of Peninsular and Latin American Spanish and thus supports our second hypothesis that written texts can be correctly classified by author’s origin.

To test our hypotheses, we carried out a series of experiments on two sets of texts produced by eight contemporary native Spanish speaking novelists. Each set represented one of the two major Spanish language variants, Peninsular or Latin American, and was comprised by a total of 100 equally distributed sample writings from four authors. The method of analysis used is a combination of statistical methods we have so far been successfully applying in research on forensic authorship attribution by means of syntactic identification markers. With 97% of correctly classified groups from both gender and origin tests, the results from the analysis based on MATS suggest that these are reliable measure of categorization. The paper concludes with a further discussion on MATS reliability and validity with regards to its possible application as measure in a forensic setting.

Susan Šarčević

Faculty of Law, University of Rijeka (Croatia)
A Terminological Jungle: Creating EU Legal Terms in Croatian
The creation of EU legal terminology in Croatian is taking place at a sensitive time when the Croatian language, the badge of national identity, has been undergoing a process of purification in all areas, including the law. The lawmaking machinery has been in high gear since 1991, churning out revisions of major laws and new laws introducing not only substantive changes but also widespread terminological innovations. The current linguistic evolution has made lawyers keenly aware of the vital role of language in the law and the need to build a concise and coherent national legal vocabulary.

This also applies to the creation of EU legal terminology in Croatian, an ongoing process that is largely the result of translation on a case-by-case basis without a coordinated set of strategies by a team of subject specialists and linguists. The glossaries and other translation aids provided are extremely helpful but cover only a small percentage of the total EU vocabulary and the Croatian terms therein have not been endorsed as official equivalents. As a result, the formation of EU terms in Croatian can presently be described as a terminological jungle where cooperation between lawyers and linguists is sorely needed. Focusing on terminological problems in translations of selected EU directives in the field of consumer protection law, this paper attempts to show how terminological inconsistencies and mistranslations can have a negative impact on the transposition of directives into national law and consequently on the alignment of Croatian legislation with the EU acquis. One of the main problems is that the translations have not been revised by lawyers and that lawyers are often not confronted with specific problems of term formation until called upon to transpose the directives into national law. Thus the process of EU term formation continues in the drafting phase and is not finalized until the final act has been adopted by the Croatian Parliament, at which point the Croatian EU terms finally become official equivalents.

P. Sture Ureland

Universität Mannheim (Germany)
Cultural Roofing and Europeanization of Scandinavia with Special Reference to Medieval Laws
In this paper I will discuss some aspects of language contact in medieval law texts with special reference to Old Danish and Old Swedish, whereby some descriptive and methodological viewpoints will also be dealt with. First, the general transfer of cultural, technical, legal, religious and linguistic information from the medieval European centres in the south to the peripheral areas in northern Europe is well-known and has been profusely documented in early legal documents and royal texts and chronicles, i.e. those written in Medieval Latin and , equally important, in Old English and Middle Low German. Before the earliest influence on the Scandinavian languages from the south will be dealt with, the whole ethno-political and contact-linguistic scenario of Christianization, centralism and medieval multilingualism must be discussed which are often the causes of linguistic change. This natural or learned multilingualism especially refers to the documentation and codification of medieval law texts collected and composed by learned multilingual monks at monasteries and royal clerks at chancelleries or educated private persons who had acquired a knowledge of Latin and Middle Low German. In addition, we will draw upon the ethno-political view of the rise of the early Medieval Scandinavian languages as being Ausbau-languages in the north with Latin, Middle German or Middle English as roofing languages in the sense of Kloss. This gives us a much broader European view of the codification process underlying the rise of Old Danish or Old Swedish to full-fledged instruments of legislation, royal centralisation and Christianization in Scandinavia during the 12th - 14th centuries, in a period which on the Continent is characterised by a “Revival of Jurisprudence” and increasing influence from Roman and Canon Law in Scandinavia.

Sonia Vaupot

University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Quelques réflexions sur la traduction des textes juridiques en français
La traduction spécialisée revêt actuellement une importance croissante. En effet, les problèmes spécifiques de traduction des textes spécialisés pénètrent tous les niveaux de la langue, entre autres le domaine du style, de la syntaxe et de la terminologie. Par ailleurs, il est devenu banal d’ajouter que les textes juridiques ont pour principale spécificité de faire référence à des systèmes et à des logiques de pensée ancrés dans une culture bien particulière.

Dans notre communication, il s’agira de nous demander quelles sont les particularités inhérentes au langage juridique en français. Dans un premier temps, nous esquisserons quelques orientations appliquées à la traduction spécialisée et nous mettrons en évidence certains problèmes d'ordre linguistique inhérents aux textes juridiques. En effet, pour assurer la transmission d’un contenu juridique, les problèmes spécifiques de traduction des textes spécialisés pénètrent tous les niveaux de la langue. Ainsi, il s’agira de mettre en évidence les difficultés classiques de la traduction juridique. D'abord, le domaine du style, de la syntaxe et de la grammaire. Puis, le domaine des notions spécifiques véhiculées par un vocabulaire spécialisé.

Olga Voronkova

University of Mannheim (Germany)
Das Recht und die Minderheitensprachen in Polen, Litauen und Weissrussland
1. Das Problem der Rechte der nationalen Minderheiten in den Sowjetrepubliken Litauen und Weissrussland sowie in dem sozialistischen Polen war nie ein Diskussionsthema. Im Grundgesetz der Länder wurde es auch nicht präzisiert, was eine Minderheit bedeutet, über welche Rechte eine Minderheit verfügt. Die Probleme der Minderheitenrechte und Minderheitensprachen wurden nur administrativ gelöst und verwaltet. Die Minderheitensprachen in den drei Republiken wurden stark unterdrückt, wobei es um die polnische Sprache in Litauen und Weissrussland, die litauische Sprache in Polen und in Weissrussland und weissrussische Sprache in Litauen und Polen handelte.

2. Das sowjetische Schulsystem in Litauen und Weissrussland und das sozialistische Schulsystem in Polen zeichnete sich durch grosse Wiedersprüche und chaotische nationale Politik, die die Konfliktsituation nach der Wende wie eine Bombe auslöste.

3. Die Wende hat die nationale Spannung und Minderheitenprobleme aber nicht gelöst, umgekehrt wurden diese Probleme erst richtig zum Konfliktthema in allen drei Ländern. Die nationalen Minderheitenrechte wurden aber nur in den Grundgesetzen Litauens und Polens formuliert. In Weissrussland blieb es bis jetzt kein Thema.

4. Das alte sowjetische Schulsystem in Weissrussland und Litauen hat die Problematik der Minderheitensprachen nicht gelöst, sondern nur zugespitzt. Das sozialistische Schulsystem Polens wurde durch ein mehr oder weniger einheitliches demokratischeres System ersetzt und die Problematik der Minderheitensprachen hat aufgehört ein Konfliktthema zu sein.

5. Die Rechtslage der Minderheitenprobleme in allen drei Ländern ist heute ein breites Diskussionsthema in Litauen und Polen, wobei es bis jetzt überhaupt kein Gesprächsthema in Weissrussland ist.

Eva Wiesmann

Università di Bologna (Italy)
Der Sprachgebrauch des Notars.

Analyse und Übersetzung phraseologischer Wortverbindungen

aus italienischen notariellen Urkunden
Der vorliegende Beitrag setzt sich aus dem Blickwinkel des Übersetzers mit den verschiedenen Arten von phraseologischen Wortverbindungen auseinander, die in italienischen notariellen Urkunden unterschiedlicher Rechtsgebiete (wie insbesondere dem Bürgerlichen Recht und dem Gesellschaftsrecht) üblicherweise vorkommen, in den Hilfsmitteln des Rechtsübersetzers aber allenfalls partiell dokumentiert sind und folglich bei der Übersetzung von notariellen Urkunden häufig Schwierigkeiten bereiten. Dazu werden anhand eines Korpus von italienischen notariellen Urkunden zunächst die Besonderheiten der ins Auge gefassten phraseologischen Wortverbindungen untersucht (wie z.B. der Festigkeitsgrad und die Bedeutungsspezialisierung, der elliptische Charakter und die Redundanzen bei Aufzählungen). Die Bedeutung und die Funktion der betreffenden Wortverbindungen im Text und im rechtlichen Kontext ist der Ausgangspunkt für die Frage nach der Übersetzung, die für Empfänger aus dem bundesdeutschen Recht bestimmt ist und daher die Untersuchung eines zweiten Korpus von bundesdeutschen notariellen Urkunden impliziert. Ausgehend von der für die Übersetzung von notariellen Urkunden typischen Situation, die als Übersetzungsfunktion die Funktion der Verständnishilfe vorsieht, werden Verfahren der Übersetzung der betreffenden Wortverbindungen herausgearbeitet. Der Beitrag schließt mit Überlegungen zur Möglichkeit der Aufbereitung der übersetzten phraseologischen Verbindungen in übersetzerischen Hilfsmitteln.

Christopher Williams

University of Foggia (Italy)
Scottish Parliament and Plain Language Legal Drafting
Although less than 10 years old, the Scottish Parliament has already changed its legislative drafting style. Following a long and fruitful debate about the need to reform legal drafting techniques, and acknowledging the importance of the Plain Language movement not only in Australia but also in Sweden, the Scottish Government published a booklet (also available online at in 2006 entitled Plain Language and Legislation.

A number of changes are discernible in the way laws have been drafted by the Scottish Parliament even during the course of its brief existence, especially since 2006. My main aim in this paper is to highlight some of these changes by comparing some of the earliest legislative texts (dating from 1999) passed by the Scottish Parliament with some of the most recent texts. My analysis will be based on criteria such as:

– the frequency of use of must, be to and the present tense with respect to the controversial modal auxiliary shall

– the avoidance of archaic terms and legalese

– the preference for active rather than passive voice

sentence length

– gender neutrality

– readability in general.

I also briefly discuss from an intercultural perspective some of the reasons why the Scottish Parliament has generally proved to be more willing to reform its legal drafting conventions than its counterparts in Cardiff, Belfast and Westminster, and whether the Scottish model could become a catalyst for changes in the way laws are drafted elsewhere in the UK.

Iwona Witczak-Plisiecka

University of Łódź (Poland)
Translation in the Legal Context – Challenges for the General Theory of Translation
Drawing largely on the data from English and Polish, with limited reference to other languages, the present paper addresses the issues related to translation in the legal context. It offers a brief comparative discussion of the notions of translation and equivalence and points to the typological variety of translation (or reformulation) phenomena found on the intra- and inter-linguistic levels.

Legal translation forms a very heterogeneous field due to the variety of situations in which legal language is used. It is also evident that even a relatively simple legal document may be translated in a number of different ways depending on the purpose of translation and demands of the party who commissions it. This multiplicity of forms and functions present in the domain of legal translation results in a serious dilemma how to formulate a general theory of translation. Such theory should be able to account for the mereology of legal translation situations and types as well as allow for a description of legal translation as its consistent subdomain. The paper comments on the problems in formulating such a theory.

The discussion includes reference to the Plain Language Movement and provides illustration of selected practical problems encountered in translation of legal normative texts between the Polish and the English language, also in the European dimension.

Diana Yankova

New Bulgarian University, Sofia (Bulgaria)
On Some Aspects of Prescriptive Legal Texts in Continental,

Common Law and Supranational Jurisdictions
The presentation will consider some differences in legal reasoning, structure and lexis across three diverse legal systems – those of Continental law, Common law and Community law drafting, as well as the implications of these differences for teaching English for Legal Purposes.

Although legislation has one and the same function across cultures – it regulates behaviour – there are different ways of achieving this goal, which are culturally, historically and linguistically determined. This culture-specific and historically determined variation has bearings on the form and content of statutory writing in the three systems. In order to achieve a better synchronic analysis we have to take into consideration some diachronic factors such as: the origin of the systems, sources and structure of the law, the role of judicial decisions, discretionary powers of courts, among others.

It is through the study of both the universal features of generic activity, and of the variety of the processes in reaching this one and the same aim that can be of benefit to non-native students of English in navigating legal discourse.
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