This is the dissertation I did for my MA in legal translation. You can download the full text from the link below.
Exploring the Use of the Louisiana Civil Code as a Source of English Translations for Spanish Legal Terms
What do translators do when faced with legal terms that have no equivalents in the target system? There are, of course, a number of strategies available for dealing with this inevitable and common problem arising primarily from the differences in national legal systems. This paper examines one of them: using a third legal system, in this case, Louisiana, as a source of English equivalents for Spanish legal concepts. As Louisiana, a mixed common and civil law system, is based on Spanish law, and as both Spain’s and Louisiana’s early civil codes borrow heavily from the Napoleonic code, the two systems are likely to still share some common ground, and Louisiana law is potentially a fertile source of authoritative English equivalents for Spanish legal terms. Specifically, this paper investigates using the Louisiana Civil Code to find translations for property law terms—a noted area of common and civil law disparity—from the Spanish Civil Code in the context of three scenarios drawn from the literature in which such an approach may be useful: 1) non-equivalence 2) partial equivalence when a source-language orientation is required and 3) near equivalence for international audiences, which takes into account the growing phenomenon of English as the legal lingua franca. The strategy is found to be useful in all three scenarios and particularly so in the first owing to the lack of other solutions. The paper also finds that some English civil law terms (e.g., immovables/movables) have been absorbed in some way into the consciousness of common law legal English, which may be an important factor in determining the usability of Louisiana terms as translations in certain scenarios. The study also highlights the importance of taking a functionalist approach to the translation process in which the translation strategy at the word level is determined by the communicative situation, which contrasts slightly with the view gleaned from the literature that functional equivalents should be the default first-choice.
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