Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Linguistic debate over the Polish EURO 2012 slogan

With the EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine launching in less than a fortnight, a controversy has recently arisen in relation to a slogan promoting the event and welcoming visitors to Poland. Contrary to some of you might suspect, the slogan is not offensive in any way but simply incorrect.

The concern is that the phrase "Feel like at home" will make the Europeans chuckle rather than feel homely. The slogan is a literary translation of the Polish "Czuj się jak u siebie w domu" (czuj się - feel; jak - like; u siebie w domu - at home), and it is supposed to constitute a warm welcome to all the visitors who come to Poland to enjoy Euro 2012, encouraging them to feel comfortable and at ease.

A debate has arisen with the Anglophiles claiming that in English we say: "Feel at home", and that the incorrect slogan is simply a disgrace, humiliating Poland as the host of the UEFA European Championships. The argument has mounted to such an extent that the advertising agency CAM Media SA - a company responsible for the promotional campaign of Poland for the EURO 2012 decided to take a stance and explain what lies behind the slogan.

According to the managing director of the CAM Media SA, Krzysztof Przybyłowski, the language of advertising - just like art - is subject to its own (here: linguistic) rules: "Our campaign focuses on two fundamental, but very internally diverse groups of addressees: Polish citizens, whose command of English is of various levels and football fans from 15 European countries in 13 of which English is not an official language. Such a diversified group of receivers requires maximum simplicity of communication in order to achieve a common basis allowing to understand the message."

He justified the use of a deliberate error by the fact that in advertising many borders are being crossed, and that it is particularly true for slogans. When creating them, advertisers resort to various linguistic operations such as unusual collocations or rarely used forms. The catchier a slogan, the easier to remember the message it carries.

Przybyłowski claims that the error in the "Feel like at home” catchphrase did not result from the lack of knowledge of its authors but it was a well-thought-out move aiming at “differentiating the message and making it more memorable”. In support for his justification, the managing director of CAM Media SA quoted widely recognised slogans such as "Think different"  (Apple), "Real news" (CNN) or "I'm lovin' it" (McDonald's).

He underlined that the creation of the EURO 2012 slogan was an informed decision made upon consultations with linguists and native speakers of English. "The main reason for such a choice was the diverse group of addressees that I have already mentioned. The linguistic form that we went for is closer to the global variation of English, and more literal than its original, idiomatic and hermetic British version. We simply used an exaggerated form that is undoubtedly not burdened with any errors," says Przybyłowski. Apparently, the slogan is supposed to greet European football fans in an informal, warm and honest way. The warmth, according to the CAM Media, is implied by the word 'like' in "Feel LIKE at home", while 'at home' could also be interpreted as 'play on your home field or ‘feel like on your home stadium’.
A question to you: as a linguist or a potential visitor coming to Poland for EURO 2012, what are your impressions of this slogan? Would it make you smile or laugh out loud? How do you think others might react? I would love to know your views so please share!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Judicial Decisions in Polish and English classifications of legal texts

Judicial decisions, belonging to a category of legal texts are produced in a special language generally called the ‘language of the law’. The language of the law is different in each legal system; therefore, the English language of the law will fail to have the same characteristics as the Polish język prawny (legislative language). Divergences already occur at the level of the classification of these languages. The first suggestion for the division of the Polish language of the law was made by Wróblewski, who in 1948 distinguished język prawny, which is applied to legislative texts and is used by legislative authorities (in Poland the major legislative authority is the Parliament (Sejm and Senat)) and język prawniczy (non-legislative language), which is employed, for example, by lawyers or public administration bodies and is applied to texts other than the source of law. This dichotomic division was further developed by Zielinski, who suggested the term języki okołoprawne (non-legislative languages) for the earlier term prawnicze, with the former term being superordinate to the latter. In his classification, Zieliński divided język prawniczy into język praktyki orzeczniczej (jurisdictional language) and język praktyki pozaorzeczniczej (non-jurisdictional language), where the former is subdivided into język postępowań sądowych i quasi-sądowych (the language of proceedings and quasi-proceedings) and język rezultatów tych postępowań lub ich uzasadnień (the language of these proceedings or their justifications). In view of their nature and function in the law, Polish judicial decisions belong to the last category, i.e. język rezultatów postępowań lub ich uzasadnień. A slightly different approach is presented by Marczyk, who argues that język praktyki orzeczniczej belongs not only to the group of języki prawnicze but also to język prawny in its broad sense, the function of which is to describe the state of affairs. Generally, the criterion for the division of the Polish legal language is the sociolect, however, there are other typologies which make use of stylistics as the principal criterion.

As far as the English language of the law is concerned, there is no clear-cut distinction (although it is tempting to use Polish standards and distinguish ‘legal language’ from the ‘language of the law’). English legal theorists devised a “bipartite system in which language has two primary functions: regulatory and informative”. This system served as a basis for Šarčevič to group legal texts with regard to their function into: 1) ‘primarily prescriptive’, which contain laws and regulations, codes, contracts, treaties and conventions; 2) ‘primarily descriptive but also prescriptive’ also called ‘hybrid texts’, these include judicial decisions, appeals, requests, pleadings, etc.; and 3) ‘purely descriptive’ such as legal opinions, law textbooks, articles, etc. If we were to juxtapose this classification with the Polish typology mentioned above, it could be noted that the legal texts included in the first group might be compared to the Polish język prawny, while the texts belonging to the second and third group to język prawniczy. Such a comparison would function only in the Polish system, since in the English legal system both the first and the second group of texts ‘contain legal instruments used in the mechanism of law’, whereas in the Polish legal theory only the first group of texts has legal force. The table below presents the comparison of English and Polish legal texts.

               Types of texts
English legal theory
Polish legal theory
1) primarily prescriptive
teksty prawne
(judicial decisions)

teksty prawne
2) descriptive and prescriptive
teksty prawnicze
(judicial decisions)

  3) purely descriptive

               teksty prawnicze

General classification of legal texts in the English and Polish legal system with reference to the Polish terminology.