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Training Legal Translators: Comparative Criminal Law Applied Tony Foster & Dirk Broeren Stichting Instituut van Gerechtstolken en -Vertalers (SIGV) Qualetra.

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Presentation on theme: "Training Legal Translators: Comparative Criminal Law Applied Tony Foster & Dirk Broeren Stichting Instituut van Gerechtstolken en -Vertalers (SIGV) Qualetra."— Presentation transcript:

1 Training Legal Translators: Comparative Criminal Law Applied Tony Foster & Dirk Broeren Stichting Instituut van Gerechtstolken en -Vertalers (SIGV) Qualetra Final Conference – Antwerp – 17 October

2 Outline Introduction The problem Legal translation according to the lawyer – Legal translation is comparative law Legal translation according to the linguist – Legal translation is comparative definition Uniting the linguistic and legal points of view Conclusions 2

3 Introduction Central thesis: higher quality of legal translation in criminal proceedings through comparative law Case in point: the specialist eight-month course on legal translation in criminal proceedings offered by the Dutch training institute for legal interpreters and translators SIGV – Output: successful candidates qualify for entry in the government-supervised register of sworn translators 3

4 “Please translate these Dutch terms into English, in such a way that they mean the same!” Lexicographers and translators: The problem

5 “Legal translation is an exercise in comparative law (i.e. in comparative definition of legal terms)” Legal translation - the lawyer:

6 Methods of comparative law Linguistic relationships: – Etymology and cognates Historical-Family relationships: – Common law versus Civil Law systems Functional relationships (functional equivalence [FE]): – Do two terms have the same function in both legal systems? Equivalence in procedural function of concept Equivalence in substantive law

7 Comparative Law: The Debate 7

8 Comparative Criminal Law Applied The SIGV course: “ Non verbum e verbo sed sensum exprimere de sensu ” St. Jerome (347 ‒ 420 CE) 8

9 “Ah, what they want is semantic and pragmatic equivalence.” Legal translation - the linguist:

10 A procedure for translation 1 Make sure you understand the Dutch term Define it in Dutch 2 Know where to look to find an English equivalent Define it in English 3 Compare your definitions Legal translation is comparative definition

11 But how does one define concepts? By means of componential analysis (CA) or prototypical analysis (PA)? The procedure looks easy

12 Definition according to Aristotle Definiens: concept to be defined Genus proximum: class to which definiens belongs large animal that people ride Differentia specifica: distinguishing features of the definiens

13 Problems How defining is this definition of horse? – Elephants are also large animals that one can ride. So when is a definition adequate? – What about more abstract concepts than horses? The number of necessary differentia specifica may be unpractically large Legal terms are abstract

14 A helpful semanticist Have you tried componential analysis? – Splitting up a term into contrasting features, or components of meaning (Nida 1979, pp ; Fronzaroli 1993, pp. 79) – An English paradigm for human beings: MaleFemaleAdultImmature Man+-+- Woman-++- Boy+--+ Girl-+-+

15 Can't we apply CA contrastively? A glimmer of hope:

16 “Why not ‘translate’ comparative law into semantic features as a starting- point for translation?” Legal translation – linguist & lawyer:

17 Let's give it a go The example of moord – murder Definitions of Dutch moord and English (UK) murder CognatesLegal family Functionally equivalent: e.g. mens rea Murder+-- Moord+--

18 Maybe an extra feature? Some crimes are more serious than others: – Mala in se (wrongs in themselves) – Mala prohibita (wrongs because the law says so) – But also within the same category (moord/doodslag are both mala in se) CognatesLegal family FE 1: mens reaFE 2: gravity of offence Murder+--+ Moord+--+

19 Oh dear… Conclusion of componential analysis: – Moord and murder differ in more than one many feature, so they're not acceptable equivalents And yet everyone translates moord into murder

20 The sense boundaries between the defining features are fuzzy Objection # 1:

21 An illustration: mens rea What's on a killer's mind? – Opzettelijk (Articles 287, 288, 288a, 302 Dutch Criminal Code) – Schuld (Article 307 Dutch Criminal Code) – Met voorbedachten rade? (Article 289 Dutch Criminal Code)

22 What were you thinking? Opzet  Willens en wetens Voorwaardelijk opzet  Aanzienlijke kans voor lief nemend Bewuste schuld Onbewuste schuld  Roekeloosheid (vertrouwend op goede afloop)  Niet nadenkend waar dat wel moet

23 Comparing Dutch and English law Opzet Intent Voorwaardelijk opzet Intent/Recklessness Bewuste schuld Onbewuste schuld Negligence

24 CA wrongly assumes that all features are equal Objection # 2:

25 Prototype theory (Rosch 1978) Categories have a centre and a periphery – So not all members have the same status This brings us back to the birdie Question for discussion: – What are the prototypical features of moord and murder?

26 What do we teach our students in theory and/or in practice? Conclusion 26

27 Lessons for life (?): Legal translation is an exercise in comparative law (De Groot) Bringing semantics and comparative law together in one framework can help you strengthen the quality of you work But don’t forget the “real world”: – Translating Du. moord into E. murder is fine if you're subtitling an episode of CSI – Beware of the grumpy judge with “a little knowledge” Why do you interpret premeditated murder? Murder is always premeditated, stupid! 27

28 28

29 References Adams, M. & Bomhoff, J. (eds.) (2012). Practice and theory in comparative law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fronzaroli, P. (1993). Componential analysis. Zeitschrift für Althebraistik, 6(1), De Groot, G.R. (1993). Recht en vertalen II. Deventer: Kluwer. Lasser, M. (2009), Judicial deliberations. A comparative analysis of judicial transparency and legitimacy (pp ). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nida, E.A. (1979). Componential analysis of meaning: An introduction to semantic structures. The Hague: Mouton. Rosch, E. (1978). Principles of categorization. In E. Rosch & B. Loyd (eds.), Cognition and categorization (pp ). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 29


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