Monday, 24 September 2012

Translator as the "law-maker"?

     Before you dive into the post, I suggest you browse through the previous one (“Legaltranslation: differences in common and civil law related to judicial decisions”) as both are strongly related.

In relation to the arguments in the previous post, it can be claimed that judges are law-makers, since the judgments they issue are authoritative legal texts. Likewise, as Šarčevič (cf. 1994:301) argues in the context of multilingual law, the translated text shows no inferiority towards the original, hence both the source and the target texts are often referred to as authoritative, i.e. they have the same legal effect. At this point a question arises: if judges, as the original text producers, are called law-makers, can translators be considered law-makers as well, since they produce a text of the same legal effect, though in the target language?

However disappointing it may sound for the translators, the answer is simply negative; the text production by the judge differs considerably from the one of the translator, and the difference lies in the process of interpretation. Alcaraz and Hughes (2002:24) provide a clear explanation of this issue:

For the translator, the purpose of interpretation is to decide on the closest possible linguistic equivalent in the target language, while for the judge it is to match up the resulting propositions against the definitions established in existing law. The difference, of course, is that the translator’s work is over once the semantic hurdle has been negotiated, whereas the judge must go on to apply the results of the linguistic analysis and announce a decision in accordance with the rules and principles of law.


 Alcaraz, Enrique; Hughes, Brian. Legal Translation Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome

 Publishing, 2002.

Šarčevič, Susan. New Approach to Legal Translation. The Hague: Kluwer Law International,  


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