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Lost in the Eurofog: The Textual Fit of Translated Law

Second Revised Edition


Łucja Biel

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.

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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...

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