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Joint Drafting of Legal Provisions in Multilingual Systems: an Analysis of the Swiss COVID-19 Regulations from a Legal Linguistic and Translational Point of View

Abstract : Legal language is known for its various technicalities and subtleties that often insulate legal translation from other specialized fields. In addition to the mere linguistic transfer of the text, along with the lexical, syntactical and pragmatic features specifically inherent in a Language for Legal Purpose (cf. Cao 2007), a comparison of two different legal systems becomes imperative in most cases (cf. Sandrini 1999). Even in light of the current pandemic that has forced governments to quickly lay down measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, fundamental legal principles continue to apply. One might argue that a rapidly spreading virus can affect legislation, especially with respect to the generally stringent application of laws. One of the emerging issues in this regard might be found in Switzerland, a multilingual legal system that establishes its legal provisions in several languages. As is the case on the supranational EU level, it depends crucially on a joint drafting system (cf. Dullion 2014), where translation becomes key. A question that rises in this context is what difficulties the legal translation of such emergency legislation may encounter in a multilingual system such as Switzerland, where, within just two weeks, two consecutive COVID-19 regulations were enacted to remedy the ambiguities in the hastily drafted first version (cf. Schröter 2020). In this context, the French and German versions of the very first Swiss COVID-19 Regulation will be examined from a translational point of view, followed by the analysis of the changes and specifications in the second document. Especially in European civil law systems, where codified statutes play a more pivotal role than in common law nations adhering to the doctrine of stare decisis, a grammatical or literal interpretation of a law leaves little room for alternatives and synonyms and even less space for vagueness. Therefore, a terminological analysis of the official versions as well as a frame-semantic approach (cf. Busse 1997) will illustrate whether the choice of varying terms may be construed as inconsistencies and lead to unintended legal ramifications. This would be exemplified by the French and German terms manifestation/Veranstaltung as well as accueillir/teilnehmen/anwesend sein. References: Busse, Dietrich (1997). “Semantisches Wissen und sprachliche Information. Zur Abgrenzung und Typologie von Faktoren des Sprachverstehens”, in: Inge Pohl (Ed.): Methodologische Aspekte der Semantikforschung. (= Sprache - System und Tätigkeit; 22) Frankfurt am Main u.a.: Lang, 13 - 34. Cao, Deborah (2007). “Translating Law“, in: Susan Bassnett & Edwin Gentzler (Ed.): Topics in Translation; 33. Clevedon u.a.: Multilingual Matters. Dullion, Valérie (2014). “Traduire les textes juridiques dans un contexte de plurilinguisme officiel : quelle formation pour quelles compétences spécifiques ?“, in: Meta: journal des traducteurs/ Meta: Translator’s Journal; 59/3, 636-653. Sandrini, Peter (1999). „Translation zwischen Kultur und Kommunikation: Der Sonderfall Recht“, in: Peter Sandrini (Ed.): Übersetzen von Rechtstexten. Fachkommunikation im Spannungsfeld zwischen Rechtsordnung und Sprache, 9-43, in: Hartwig Kalverkämper (Ed.): Forum für Fachsprachen-Forschung; 54. Tübingen: Günter Narr. Schröter, Juliane (2020). “Vertrauen statt Verbote. Die Kommunikation des Schweizer Bundesrates und Bundesamts für Gesundheit in der COVID-19-Krise”, in: Aptum. Zeitschrift für Sprachkritik und Sprachkultur; 16/2-3, 166-174.
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Submitted on : Monday, December 14, 2020 - 8:17:35 AM
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Laurent Gautier, Waldemar Nazarov. Joint Drafting of Legal Provisions in Multilingual Systems: an Analysis of the Swiss COVID-19 Regulations from a Legal Linguistic and Translational Point of View. International Legal Linguistics Workshop (ILLWS20), Austrian Association for Legal Linguistics, Dec 2020, Vienne, Austria. ⟨halshs-03060478⟩



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