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Comparative Law for Legal Translators


Guadalupe Soriano-Barabino

One of the central challenges facing translators of legal texts is the ability to fully understand the requirements of the various legal systems worldwide. In this respect, comparative law plays an important role in legal translation, as it allows for the identification of similarities and differences among legal systems.

While the practice of legal translation requires an excellent knowledge of comparative law for the linguistic transfer to be successful, educational institutions do not usually train their students in how to make the most of comparative law in the translation of legal texts or how to rationally solve the problems arising from the differences that inevitably exist between legal systems. After emphasizing the importance of comparative law in the field of legal translation, this volume focuses on the main concepts that characterize some of the most relevant legal systems in the world and puts theory into practice by offering some exercises on comparative law applied to translation.

This volume will be of interest to the growing number of students, teachers, professionals and researchers working in the field of legal translation.

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Chapter 8: The United States


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The United States

Although the United States originally received the common law of England, their legal organization has evolved in such a way that it is nowadays very different from that in England. As Atiyah and Summers (1991: 417) point out, ‘these two legal systems embrace very different conceptions of law’. The law of the US comprises Federal and State laws, as well as constitutional law. In addition, the vastness and complexity of the territory, the variegated foreign influences, the coexistence of different legal systems (that of Louisiana belongs to the Civil tradition), and the changes undergone in the development of legal concepts and principles have shaped a unique and distinctive legal system (De Cruz 2007: 108).

8.1   Historical evolution of the US legal system

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