RSS feed

Mac Aodha, Máirtín (ed.) (2014). Legal Lexicography. A Comparative Perspective. Law, Language and Communication (series editors Anne Wagner and Vijay Kumar Bhatia).

Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 339, £75.00. ISBN: 978-1-4094-5441-0.

The edited volume on Legal Lexicography fills the underresearched gap in legal language studies related to legal dictionaries. The volume is edited by Máirtín Mac Aodha, an experienced lawyer-linguist from the Council of the European Union. It consists of 15 chapters, 12 in English and 3 in French, which altogether cover 10 jurisdictions. Its main objective is to present a rich overview of varied perspectives: practical and theoretical; synchronic and diachronic; traditional and digital; monolingual, bilingual and multilingual ones, and ultimately to function as a resource book on the emerging field of studies (which still has to work out its name: legal lexicography, jurilexicography, or rather legal terminology or legal terminography?). This objective is further pursued by a mixture of contributing academics and practitioners from a diverse range of backgrounds, including names familiar to legal terminologists, such as Marta Chroma, Sandro Nielsen and Peter Sandrini.

In my review, I will focus on the papers written in English which may be of special interest to legal translation researchers.

The chapter by Ian Lancashire and Janet Damianopoulos from the University of Toronto discusses the Early Modern English Law Lexicon against the background of 16th- and 17th-century power relations between legal French, Latin and English in England, when French started to be replaced by English. The authors observe, interestingly, that "[n]o profession contributed more to an understanding of the English language in the Early Modern English period than law" due to a large number of legal dictionaries with novel methodological solutions (2014: 31). The paper presents the seminal lexicographic work by lawyers, such as John Rastell and John Cowell. The first monolingual English dictionary, Exposiciones terminorum legum Anglorum, by John Rastell was published in 1523 and had 27 editions by 1685; it contained Common Law terms in law-French, with English translations of headwords and explanations as a tool for novice students of the Inns of Court (2014: 31-32). John Cowell, author of The Interpreter (1607), developed term entries by adding discussion and bibliographical references (2014: 37). Another influential dictionary was Nomo-Lexikon (1670), which was a combined revised version of Cowell's and Rastell's dictionaries by Thomas Blount. These dictionaries had a strong impact on the development of English lexicography.

Two chapters are written by eminent practicing lexicographers, Bryan A. Garner and Daniel Greenberg, who discuss challenges of compiling monolingual legal dictionaries. Bryan A. Garner is the editor-in-chief of renowned Black's Law Dictionary, the legal translator's Bible, and the author of one of my favourite practical books A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2001). Garner discusses fundamental questions behind the compilation of legal dictionaries, such as a dictionary versus an encyclopaedia, original scholarship versus a compilation of definitions from legal sources, formalities of defining words, reliance on the predecessors' accuracy and sources of materials to be included in a dictionary. He illustrates the discussion with developments behind 9 editions of Black's Law Dictionary. Daniel Greenberg edits the key English authority Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, a 'dictionary of law', and Jowitt's Dictionary of English Law, a 'judicial dictionary'. He explains the difference between the two types of dictionaries as follows: "The former is a dictionary of law in the sense of defining expressions that form part of the law; the latter is a judicial dictionary in the sense that it defines expressions that may have nothing to do with the law in themselves, but which by being defined in the course of decided cases or statutes have acquired a meaning that has become part of the law" (2014: 59). It is further clarified that a judicial dictionary may be viewed "simply as a list of occasions on which the judiciary have offered definitions of a particular expression" (2014: 65). Greenberg also considers the influence of the judiciary and of the legislature on the development of legal terminology, as well as problems related to temporal variation of terminology and variation across jurisdictions (e.g. English Law and Scots Law).

The next chapter by Coen J.P. van Laer from Maastricht University examines the possibility of improving bilingual legal dictionaries for translators by including the optimal amount of encyclopaedic information. Van Laer argues that dictionaries should assess the degree of equivalence between concepts in the SL and TL; to do that, he stresses, entries should include SL and TL legislative definitions to allow for their comparison, especially for core and incongruous concepts (2014: 76-86). Indisputably, this solution would be of valuable help to translators; however, I have doubts as to its feasibility due to the following constraints: legal systems differ in their reliance on legislative definitions; there are not that many terms that have legislative definitions; legislative definitions of a term may differ across statutes and branches of law and, finally, in the case of languages which are used in various jurisdictions, how many definitions do we place in an entry (e.g. the English-French dictionary - the UK, the USA, Ireland, Canada, France, the EU)? It should be admitted though that this solution offers an ideal to strive towards.

Marta Chroma, an academic from Charles University of Prague and author of a number of English-Czech dictionaries, discusses determinants of quality of bilingual legal dictionaries. She starts with explaining why an ambitious venture of translating the sixth edition of Black's Law Dictionary into Czech was not successful, and goes on to discuss how the complexity of legal translation affects the quality of legal dictionaries. It is also a good overview of literature on such issues as classifications of legal terminology and equivalence in legal translation.

Adopting the perspective of the theory of terminology (the centrality of the concept, the interrelatedness of concepts and the principle of univocity, 2014: 141), Peter Sandrini from the University of Innsbruck convincingly questions the possibility of accounting for multinational legal terminology in a paper dictionary and predicts the near end of legal dictionaries in this form. Emphasising the role of concepts systems, Sandrini observes that the dictionary user should have "a clear image of the structural embeddedness of the concept and the terms used to designate it" (2015: 150). While this task is feasible for monolingual dictionaries in a traditional paper form, it is not the case with multinational legal terminology, the comparison of which requires additional information, such as: "indication of the most closely related concept in the target legal system; explanation of differences and similarities where major differences exist; a knowledge link (concept hierarchy, legal classification) to the relevant concepts" (2014: 150). Sandrini argues for the use of modern digital tools, such as data banks, to "represent flexible entry structures and hyperlinks between legal systems avoiding direct equivalents" (2014: 150). Considering recent shifts in translators' terminology mining behaviour towards online and digital resources (cf. Biel 2008), this claim is more than valid.

This trend is fully acknowledged and taken further by Sandro Nielsen, who demonstrates how to enhance online legal dictionaries, based on a study conducted at Aarhus University. Such tools can be built with a single database and a search engine. The database Nielsen discusses includes the following types of information: entry word, grammatical data relating to it, equivalents, grammatical data for equivalents, definition, collocations, examples, antonyms and synonyms, source (reference), grammar note, usage note, contrastive note (conceptual differences between a ST and a TT) and cross-reference (2014: 162). Digital technology makes it possible to better structure masses of data and to retrieve information adopted to user needs (communicative and cognitive functions) as regards its content and quantity.

Other contributions, which for want of space are treated perfunctorily here, include: the opening chapter by Pierre-Nicolas Barenot from University Montesquieu Bordeaux IV on the history of French legal lexicography, a contribution by Pierre Lerat from the University of Paris-North (Paris XIII) on the methodology for a database multilingual legal dictionary for EU citizens as semi-specialised users (Chapter 6), a paper by Thierry Grass from the University of Strasbourg, who argues for the use of ISO standards and the TBX framework to draft a legal termbase (Chapter 7), a chapter by Christopher Hutton on the understanding of "ordinary language" within the culture of law, illustrated with definitions of vehicle (Chapter 11); a contribution by Mathieu Devinat from Université de Sherbrooke on the use of dictionaries at the Supreme Court of Canada, that is in bilingual bijural contexts (Chapter 12), a chapter by Patrick Forget from the Université du Québec à Montréal on phraseological units in linguistic examples in Dictionnaire de droit privé et lexiques bilingues (Chapter 13), a chapter by Malachy O'Rourke on the development of Irish legal terminology (Chapter 14) and, last but not least, a paper by Māmari Stephens and Mary Boyce from the University of Hawai'i on the diachronic corpus design for the legal dictionary of Māori and an insightful discussion on power relations between English, the dominant legal language, and Māori, a minority legal language, in bilingual New Zealand (Chapter 15).

To sum up, the book offers a broad coverage of topics related to legal terminology and a rich overview of bibliography in one place. Definitely, it is a must-read for legal translation and legal language researchers. What could perhaps be improved in next editions is a more extensive coverage of the most recent trends in legal terminology related to the technological turn (cf. Cronin 2010), including the involvement of parallel corpora, integration of dictionaries with CAT tools and more advanced digital tools, as evidenced, for example, in such projects as TermWise, a legal terminology database as an extension to a CAT-tool (Heylen et al. 2014) and JudGENTT, a web platform with documentary, textual and terminological resources for the translation of court documents (Borja Albi 2013).

Bibliography
  • Biel, Łucja (2008). "Legal terminology in translation practice: dictionaries, googling or discussion forums?" SKASE Journal of Translation and Interpretation 3(1), 22-38 http://www.skase.sk/Volumes/JTI03/pdf_doc/BielLucja.pdf.
  • Borja Albi, Anabel (2013). "A genre analysis approach to the study of the translation of court documents." LANS-TTS, a special issue on Research Models and Methods in Legal Translation 12(2013), https://lans-tts.uantwerpen.be/index.php/LANS-TTS/article/view/235/202.
  • Cronin, Michael (2010). "The Translation Crowd." Revista Tradumàtica 8, www.fti.uab.es/tradumatica/revista/num8/articles/04/04central.htm.
  • Garner, Bryan A. (2001). A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Heylen, Kris, Stephen, Bond, Dirk, De Hertog, Hendrik J. Kockaert, Frieda, Steurs, Ivan, Vulić (2014). "TermWise: Leveraging Big Data for Terminological Support in Legal Translation." Proceedings of the 11th Terminology and Knowledge Engineering Conference: Ontology, Terminology & Text Mining (TKE), 167-176.

Łucja Biel
University of Warsaw
l.biel@uw.edu.pl