Lost in the Eurofog: The Textual Fit of Translated Law

Second Revised Edition

by Łucja Biel (Author)
©2017 Monographs 348 Pages


The book is one of the few in-depth investigations into the nature of EU legal translation and its impact on national legal languages. It is also the first attempt to characterise EU Polish, a language of supranational law and a hybrid variant of legal Polish emerging via translation. The book applies Chesterman's concept of textual fit, that is how translations differ from non-translations, to demonstrate empirically on large corpora how the Polish eurolect departs from the conventions of legal and general Polish both at the macrostructural and microstructural level. The findings are juxtaposed with the pre-accession version of Polish law to track the 'Europeanisation' of legal Polish – recent changes brought about by the unprecedented inflow of EU translations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of content
  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part I. Constraints of the Translation Process
  • Chapter 1. Legal language and its patterning
  • 1.1 System of legal genres
  • 1.2 Legal Polish
  • 1.2.1 Historical development of legal Polish: translation as an agent of degeneration and regeneration
  • 1.2.2 Generic features of national legislation
  • 1.3 Prefabrication of legal language
  • 1.3.1 Recent developments in terminology and phraseology
  • 1.3.2 Typology of legal phrasemes
  • 1.3.3 Text-structuring and grammatical patterns
  • 1.3.4 Term-forming patterns
  • Classifications of legal terms
  • Properties of legal terms
  • Legal terms as a source of oddity in translations
  • 1.3.5 Term-embedding collocations
  • 1.3.6 Lexical collocations
  • Chapter 2. The hybridity of EU discourse and its impact on national languages
  • 2.1 Challenges of legal translation
  • 2.2 Typologies of legal translation and EU translation
  • 2.2.1 Typologies of legal translation
  • 2.2.2 Classifications of EU translation
  • 2.3 EU legislation
  • 2.4 The translation of EU law
  • 2.4.1 Multilingualism and the principle of equal authenticity
  • 2.4.2 Impact of the drafting process on hybridisation
  • 2.4.3 Institutional norms of translating
  • 2.4.4 Reception of EU translation
  • 2.5 The impact of EU translation on national legal languages
  • 2.6 Conclusions: The colonisation of the genre of legislation
  • Chapter 3. Corpus translation studies: Textual fit
  • 3.1 Corpus revolution in linguistics
  • 3.1.1 Corpus linguistics as a methodology
  • 3.1.2 Corpus studies of legal language and their limitations
  • 3.2 Corpus translation studies as a paradigm shift
  • 3.3 CTS: Translation universals (features of translations)
  • 3.3.1 S-universals: the equivalence relation
  • 3.3.2 T-universals: the relation of textual fit
  • 3.3.3 Toury’s law of interference
  • 3.3.4 Criticism of translation universals
  • 3.4 CTS: Phraseology in translation
  • 3.4.1 Phraseology as a translation problem: cross-linguistic variation
  • 3.4.2 Phraseological distortions in translation
  • 3.5 Operationalisation of textual fit
  • Part II. Corpus Study of Translated versus Nontranslated Legislation
  • Chapter 4. EUROFOG corpus design and methodological considerations
  • 4.1 Corpus design method
  • 4.2 Software: Wordsmith Tools
  • 4.3 Structure of corpora
  • 4.3.1 JRC-Acquis Corpus
  • 4.3.2 The Polish Law Corpus (PLC)
  • 4.3.3 Pre-accession (1999) and Post-accession (2011) Polish Law Subcorpora
  • 4.3.4 The National Corpus of Polish (NKJP)
  • 4.4 Normalisation of corpus data
  • Chapter 5. Textual fit at the macrostructural level: text-structuring and grammatical patterns
  • 5.1 Descriptive statistics: global comparison of corpora
  • 5.2 Keywords and Wordlist analysis: potential indicators of translationese
  • 5.3 Mental models of legal reasoning
  • 5.3.1 If-then conditionals and related patterns
  • 5.3.2 Patterns of purpose
  • 5.3.3 Causal relations
  • 5.4 Deontic modality: communicating rights and obligations
  • 5.4.1 Obligation
  • 5.4.2 Permission
  • 5.5 Depersonalisation and authorlessness: passive voice and impersonal patterns
  • 5.5.1 Auxiliary verbs
  • 5.5.2 Passive voice
  • 5.5.3 The -no/-to impersonal pattern
  • 5.5.4 The się impersonal pattern
  • 5.6 Logical relations between discourse units and structurisation of legal rules
  • 5.6.1 Parataxis
  • 5.6.2 Hypotaxis
  • 5.7 Qualifications and cohesion: adverbials and participles
  • 5.7.1 Framing with adverbials
  • 5.7.2 Framing with adverbial participles
  • 5.8 Deixis: pointing devices
  • Chapter 6. Textual fit at the microstructural level: term-embedding, term-forming and lexical collocations
  • 6.1 Clusters: n-grams
  • 6.2 Textual mapping: collocations of editing units
  • 6.2.1 Editing units
  • 6.2.2 Names of instruments
  • 6.2.3 The direct collocational environment of editing units
  • 6.2.4 Legal authority
  • 6.2.5 References to the Official Journal
  • 6.3 Other lexical collocations
  • 6.4 Term-forming collocations
  • 6.4.1 Terminological keywords
  • 6.4.2 EU-related terminology
  • 6.4.3 Synthetic morphological patterns
  • 6.4.4 Borrowings and their embedding
  • 6.4.5 Variation of terminological equivalents
  • 6.5 Term-embedding collocations
  • 6.5.1 General and legal term-embedding collocations
  • 6.5.2 Term-embedding collocations in translated law
  • 6.6 Conclusions
  • Chapter 7. Synthesis and Interpretation of Data
  • 7.1 Description model for textual fit
  • 7.2 The divergent fit of translated EU law (a eurolect)
  • 7.3 The genre of national legislation
  • 7.3.1 Legislative Polish against general Polish (PLC v NKJP)
  • 7.3.2 Internal variation of the genre of national legislation
  • 7.4 Impact of translations on post-accession legislative Polish: 1999 versus 2011
  • 7.5 Other theoretical implications: translation universals (features of translations)
  • 7.6 Practical applications of the study
  • 7.7 Corpus methodology: limitations of the study and implications for further research
  • Conclusions: The Role of Translation in the European Union
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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Abbreviations and acronyms

L-Acquis the directives section of PL JRC Acquis

R-Acquis the regulations section of PL JRC Acquis

PLC the Polish Law Corpus

PreA-1999KP the pre-accession section of PLC containing codes and law-type statutes

PostA- 2011KP the post-accession section of PLC containing codes and law-type statutes

NKJP the National Corpus of Polish

SL source language

ST source text

TL target language

TT target text

BT back translation

RF raw frequency

NF normalised frequency

RC reference corpus

ZTP Polish National Drafting Guidelines

Glossing abbreviations

ADJ adjective

FEM feminine gender

FORM formal register

FUT future tense

GEN genitive case

IFORM informal register

INT instrumental case

MASC masculine gender

MID middle voice

NEUT neutral register, neuter gender

NOM nominative case

PASS passive voice

IMPRS impersonal

INF infinitive

PAST past tense ← 11 | 12 →

PFV perfective participle

POSS possessive pronoun

PP past participle

PRES present tense

PRO pronoun

PURP purposive

REFL reflexive

REL relative pronoun

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This study was financed by research grant no. 2251/B/H03/2010/38 (2010–2012) from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

I wish to thank the late Professor Anna Duszak of the Institute of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warsaw for reading the manuscript and making insightful comments which helped me to improve my work. I am also grateful to Professor Stanisław Goźdź-Roszkowski of University of Łódź for reading the draft version of the book and for his valuable feedback. Special thanks are due to the Professors from the Translation Research Summer School (University College London, 2007) and CETRA — 20th Doctoral Summer School (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2008), who helped me to shape, refine and narrow down my initial research design. Any shortcomings remain my own.

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The language of Europe is translation.
Umberto Eco

Translation has been perceived both as an agent of regeneration and degeneration in the history of legal Polish. Since its early phases of development in the Middle Ages, legal Polish has changed to a large extent through contacts, not always voluntary and welcome, with other languages and legal systems — Latin, German, Russian and most recently English. The latest evolution of Polish, an Eastern European language spoken by about 40 million people, is connected with two momentous events in the history of Poland: (i) the fall of Communism in 1989 and transition from a centrally-planned to market economy, and (ii) accession to the European Union (EU) in 2004. As a result, in the last two decades the country has experienced a tide of political, economic, social and cultural changes, facilitated by an unprecedented transfer of know-how, via translation, from Western Europe and Northern America.

This book addresses the second round of changes, resulting from Poland’s accession to the EU. The condition for EU membership was to translate the acquis, the body of EU law, and harmonise national law with EU law. The harmonisation of national law was based directly on translated law. EU-related legal translation, as stressed by Lambert, goes beyond legal issues and has also social, cultural and political implications: “It is (also) about identity, about entering a new world, first of all in terms of discourse, then (later) in terms of rights and commitments” (2009: 91). Poland’s accession to the EU was, above all, symbolic in that it has restored a sense of belonging to Europe and strengthened the European identity. Despite some sceptical voices, 78% of Poles voted for EU membership in the 2003 referendum.

This project intends to answer the question whether the Polish of EU law, a substantial portion of which is directly applicable in Poland, is different from the language of national law and, if so, to what extent and how. For this purpose the hypothesis was formulated that, despite the harmonisation, translated EU legislation differs from nontranslated Polish legislation due to two major groups of factors: (i) those related to the hybridity of EU discourse, its goals and institutional norms of translating, and (ii) those related to distortions typical of the translation process and source-language (SL) interference. To test the hypothesis, the following research questions were formulated: ← 15 | 16 →

The corpus methodology was an obvious choice for the study due to its potential to analyse and compare a large set of data and to uncover patterns of language in an objective, reliable and systematic way. The analysis was conducted with comparable corpora of Polish: (i) JRC-Acquis, a corpus of EU law from which two subcorpora of regulations and directives were separated, and (ii) the Polish Law Corpus built by the author as a reference corpus with a subcorpus of codes and law-type statutes in their 2011 and corresponding 1999 versions to study recent language change potentially induced by the avalanche of translated EU law; (iii) the National Corpus of Polish used as a reference corpus to analyse legal genre conventions against general Polish.

The choice of recurrent lexicogrammatical patterns for the analysis has been dictated by a recent surge of interest in patterns awoken by corpus advances in various branches of linguistics, translation studies, terminology and neighbouring disciplines. The introduction of electronic corpora to language studies has been compared to the introduction of telescopes in astronomy (Stubbs 2004: 107), and one of the fundamental theoretical aspects that has been brought into focus is the prefabrication of language. This study will investigate to what extent it is possible to recreate the natural patterning in legal translation, with reference to key generic features of legislation.

EU translation is rarely researched within translation studies (cf. Koskinen 2008: 27). The present study is a pioneering project in that it addresses a number of the hitherto neglected areas: EU translation, EU Polish (a eurolect) and its impact on the language of national law. It offers a contribution to the ongoing debate on EU translation from the perspective of a Slavonic language, which is genetically different from Romance and Germanic languages. I reactivate the concept of textual fit, operationalise and extend it to the analysis of translated EU law, and demonstrate its applications. The methodological objective of the project is to test the potential of corpus methods to research legal translation.

This book appears in the series Studies in Language, Culture and Society published by Peter Lang. It reports on the data-driven corpus research of ← 16 | 17 → intra-language variation and change brought about by Poland’s accession to the EU, relating them to institutional, political and procedural factors. Thus, it presents research on an institutionalised form of mediated multilingual communication. The theoretical objective of the book is to increase our understanding of EU translation, its properties and impact on national law, while the applied objective is to improve the quality of EU translations and training methods.


The book is divided into two parts. Part I sets the theoretical ground for measuring the textual fit and prepares an interdisciplinary conceptual framework for the analysis by integrating knowledge from a number of fields, most notably corpus translation studies, legal language studies, and EU translation, to account for various contextual factors and constraints which operate during the translation process and affect the target text. Chapter 1 discusses the basic properties of legal language, concentrating on its prefabrication and recurrent patterns that are typical of legislation. Chapter 2 introduces EU translation as an independent research field, analysing institutional drafting and translation processes and their impact on the hybridity of the genre of EU legislation and national legislation. Chapter 3 discusses the potential of corpus methodologies, their applications in translation studies and defines the parameter of textual fit as a linguistic distance between translations and nontranslations in terms of overrepresented and underrepresented lexicogrammatical patterns. Part II comprises an empirical study into the textual fit of EU legislation translated into Polish against nontranslated Polish legislation. First it describes the design of corpora and methodological issues (Chapter 4). Chapter 5 analyses the textual fit at the macrostructural level of key generic features, investigating grammatical and text-structuring patterns, in particular as they reflect mental models of legal reasoning. Chapter 6 analyses the textual fit at the microstructural level, examining term-embedding, term-forming and lexical collocations. The findings are juxtaposed with the pre-accession version of Polish law to see how the post-accession language changed and whether some changes could have been facilitated by the over- and underrepresentation of certain patterns in translated EU law. Chapter 7 contains a synthesis of the results and their qualitative interpretation, final conclusions, limitations of the study, suggestions for further research and practical applications of the study in translator practice and training. The findings of the study demonstrate that the textual fit of EU law is divergent; translated EU law markedly departs from the generic conventions of Polish law, invading its integrity ← 17 | 18 → and colonising the genre. As a result, translated law creates a distinct, foreignising, more European variety of Polish (a eurolect), which, in addition to being a product of efforts to ensure a uniform interpretation and application of multilingual law, seems to be a by-product of the unequal interaction between a majority and minority culture.

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Part I. Constraints of the Translation Process

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Chapter 1. Legal language and its patterning

1.1 System of legal genres

An attempt to define EU legal translation should be preceded by a discussion of its underlying structure, legal language, which contributes to its fuzziness. The term legal language has a broad meaning and is used interchangeably in a generic sense to cover all types of legal language, including the language of the law (cf. Tiersma 1999: 139), as well as in a narrow sense to refer to the metalanguage of the law and semi-legal language. To add to the confusion, the term language of the law is similarly used both in a generic sense (cf. Mellinkoff 2004[1963]: 3; Gémar quoted in Šarčević 1997: 9; Gibbons 2003: 15) and in a narrow sense (cf. Alcaraz and Hughes 2002: 101).

Classifications of legal language are relative (Mattila 2006: 4) and are motivated by research needs and perspectives. As a category, legal language has a fuzzy rather than discrete boundary, shows high internal differentiation, and is to a certain degree system-dependent. This triggers numerous attempts to classify it with varying granularity ranging from simple bipartite to more elaborate classifications, and with varying aspects of legal language being foregrounded, such as a user (Wróblewski 1948: 54), branch of the law (Mattila 2006: 5), text type or function (Tiersma 1999: 180).

Introduced by a Polish law professor Bronisław Wróblewski, the classic division into the language of the law (język prawny) and its metalanguage (język prawniczy)1 centres on the language used by the legislator to form legal norms (legislation), separating it from the language used by lawyers to analyse and describe the law, i.e. judicial decisions, pleadings (1948: 54). The conceptualisation of język prawny and język prawniczy as two distinct albeit related languages is deeply ingrained in Polish jurisprudence, being repeated in numerous textbooks on the theory of law (cf. Opałek and Wróblewski 1969: 40–41; Gizbert-Studnicki 1972; Lang et al. 1986: 330; Wronkowska and Ziembiński 1997: 147). By contrast, this linguistic aspect of the law is not as prominently discussed in English jurisprudence. ← 21 | 22 →

Legal language may also be divided into monologic (legislation, contracts, etc.) and interactive/dynamic (language of the courtroom, legal consultations and police investigations) (Gibbons 2003: 15). Another bipartite classification is based on text functions and divides legal texts into regulatory/prescriptive and informative/descriptive ones (Kelsen quoted in Šarčević 1997: 11). The perception of what is regulatory/prescriptive may differ across cultures and systems, which will influence the way how the boundary is fixed between the two classes. For example, in contrast to continental civil-law systems, common law (judgemade law) systems have to account for precedents and case law as sources of law.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (September)
EU translation Juristensprache Eurolect Juristische Phraseologie juristische Phraseologie
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 348 pp., 3 b/w ill., 29 b/w graphs, 46 b/w tables

Biographical notes

Łucja Biel (Author)

Łucja Biel is a legal translation researcher, translator trainer (Assistant Professor at University of Warsaw, Visiting Lecturer at City University London), sworn translator, deputy editor of the Journal of Specialised Translation and Secretary General of the European Society of Translation Studies.


Title: Lost in the Eurofog: The Textual Fit of Translated Law
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