Lost in Translation? Linguistic Diversity and the Elusive Quest for Plain Meaning in the Law

Authored by: Janet Ainsworth

The Ashgate Handbook of Legal Translation

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409469667
eBook ISBN: 9781315612706
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044239


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The task of the legal translator can be stated with simplicity: it is to take a legal text expressed in one language, and create an equivalent legal text in another language, such that a legal decision-maker, applying either text to a particular legal issue or dispute, will arrive at the same conclusion regardless of which text is used. As described, the task seems straightforward enough, but its simplicity is deceptive. It is by now nearly a cliché that legal translation is among the most challenging tasks that any translator can face (Correia 2002; Harvey 2002). This chapter will first articulate the nature of the special challenges presented to the translator of legal texts, then will go on to discuss some of the strategies employed to overcome those challenges, and finally, will suggest that the process of legal translation has consequences that go far beyond matters of ensuring legal equivalence. Choices made in the process of legal translation have ramifications for legal textual interpretation more generally and for the substance of legal decision-making in a globalized world.

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