A civil law dictionary and my dissertation topic

I just bought a new dictionary: Louisiana Civil Law Dictionary by Gregory W. Rome and Stephan Kinsella. So, what would a Spanish to UK-English translator want with an English civil law dictionary?

Well, as the Civil Code of Louisiana is at least partly based on the Spanish Civil Code, there’s a chance that there might be a few concepts used in the Louisiana legal system (a mixed common and civil law system) that are equivalent to Spanish legal concepts. Maybe the terms for these concepts could be used—and undoubtedly are already being used, I’d say—as translations in certain contexts, particularly when there are no common law equivalents but maybe even when there are.

And that’s what my dissertation is about: exploring the use of Louisiana civil law equivalents as translations for Spanish terms. I have actually used Louisiana law on occasions when translating, both to get a better handle on Spanish terms and to look for equivalents. That’s where I got the idea from in the first place. But going from an idea to writing 10,000 words is a big step.

While this “civil law” approach is certainly not new, there doesn’t seem to be much research on it. Some—Sarcevic, for example—do make mention of using a third system for literal equivalents, although it doesn’t look like anyone’s set out to verify what kind of equivalents these terms are in the case of the Civil Code of Louisiana or investigate when they might be useful as opposed to other approaches, which is more or less what I going to try to do.

Anyway, we’ll see how it works out. And please let me know if you think I’m barking way up the wrong tree or at least overlooking something important—there might still be enough time to change my topic. 🙂

Written by Rob

Rob Lunn is a freelance legal translator based in Spain. He translates from Spanish and Catalan into English.

4 comments to “A civil law dictionary and my dissertation topic”
  1. Wow, is this really your dissertation topic? It sounds… difficult to find resources? And extremely specific. But the most important thing is that you`re passionate about it, since you are going to spend a great deal of time on it. Mmm did the discursive dissertation have to do with something that had never be done before, like in a PhD? I thought it did not matter as long as the work itself was original (I chose the translation option, so I kinda ignored the rules for the discursive option).

    • C’mon, Bea. Don’t scare me. It’s not going to be that difficult. I hope, anyway. 🙂 I’ve actually found some more research on using terms from a third system, so it’s not looking to be that virgin a territory anymore.

      I don’t think our projects had to be totally new. For me it was just of case of this idea coming up early on and sticking. Although I’d say you were smart in choosing the translation option. Good luck with it and see you in a couple of weeks!

  2. More specific sounds good to me, it should make it easier to select material. A good topic, too. I hope the dissertation is going well.
    I’ve also occasionally come across a civil law concept that seemed to have an equivalent in US but not UK law, though I’d never gone as far as nailing it down to a particular state. Maybe some of these English equivalents are used more in Latin America. For example, I got the impression that a lot of the Google hits for “deed in lieu of payment” came from Latin America.

    • Cheers! It is coming along, slowly but surely. Most of those civil law terms that you’ve come across were probably from Louisiana, which has a pretty unique legal system it seems.

      I suspect “deed in lieu of payment” might still be common law and that it probably comes from the US. “Deed” is apparently used more narrowly there to nearly always refer to real estate. “Giving in payment” is the civil law term in this case, at least in Louisiana.

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