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Legal Terms in Business Contracts

1.1. Terminology

Terminology is the study of terms and their use. Terms are words and compound words that in
specific contexts are given specific meanings, meanings that may deviate from the meaning the
same words have in other contexts and in everyday language. The discipline Terminology
studies among other things how such terms of art come to be and their interrelationships within a
culture. Terminology differs from lexicography in studying concepts, conceptual systems, and
their labels (terms), whereas lexicography study words and their meanings.
The discipline of terminology consists primarily of the following aspects:
analyzing the concepts and concept structures used in a field or domain of
identifying the terms assigned to the concepts;
in the case of bilingual or multilingual terminology, establishing correspondences
between terms in the various languages;
compiling the terminology, on paper or in databases;
managing terminology databases;
creating new terms, as required.
1.2. Terminology in translation

The classic example of someone in need of a terminology is a translator. For a long period of
time technical translators have developed word lists for translation purposes. Most lists contain
two columns, the first consisting of terms in the source language and right next to it in the second
column the corresponding term in the departments of companies to enable translators to find
matching terms in the target language. This is necessary to lower the costs of translating manuals
containing technical expressions that are in general neither part of the translator's active nor
within his passive vocabulary.
The relationship between translation and terminology has been addressed by various authors
both in the field of translation and terminology. From the point of view of translation,
terminology is considered a tool to solve particular problems, while in terminology translated
documents may serve as a source for extracting terms when there are no original texts on the
subject in the target language.
Terminology and translation present a series of coincidences. Firstly, terminology and translation
are characterized by their long tradition as applied subjects, in contrast to their recently
established character as disciplines. Terminology and translation arose from the practical activity
caused by the need to express specialized thought or to solve comprehension problems.
Second, due to their relatively recent scientific recognition, both translation and terminology try
to advance in the reaffirmation of their status as disciplines by placing emphasis on the features
that distinguish them from other subjects and adhering to theories which sustain their
autonomous nature as fields of knowledge.
Thirdly, terminology and translation are interdisciplinary fields having a cognitive, linguistic and
communicative basis. As a result, their foundation principles come from cognitive, language and
communication sciences. Besides, both subjects are information and communication areas which
have knowledge categories and units expressing them that are projected on communicative acts
immersed in particular social contexts.
Language is the essence of both disciplines. Language is the expression system that reflects the
speakers conception of reality and allows individuals to interact and express their ideas and
Despite their similarities, translation and terminology are different fields of knowledge that focus
on two different objects: translation deals with the study of the translation process and the
analysis of the translated text, and terminology focuses on the lexical form and content nodes
representing knowledge as structured in the experts mind.
Finally, translation and terminology bear an asymmetrical relationship. Specialized translation
inevitably needs terminology to produce an adequate text. This is because experts use terms for
their texts. In practical terminological work terms are gathered from texts produced by specialists
in real communicative situations. On the other hand, in the process of elaborating glossaries,
term extraction from original texts instead of translated texts is a priority. Only in situations
where there is no discourse on a subject in a given language, are translated texts used as a
terminological source. (Gambier, Doorslaer, 2010, pp. 356-359)
1.3. Legal Translation

The translation of legal texts is a practice which began a long time ago with the translations of
the peace treaty between Egypt and the Hittite Empire in 1271 BC as well as the translation of
the Corpus Iuris Civilis and other legal texts from past centuries. As these way of thinking hasnt
been passed on in history, systematic study has only recently begun in the field of legal
translation. Many significant problems have already been identified and there search has
certainly shown its practical applications with the help of comparative law, legal linguistics and
legal data processing. (Galdia Marcus, 2003, pp.1)
Legal translation has primarily been researched through the perspective of terminology and the
question how terms from a legal system can be expressed in the equivalent terms of another legal
When translating a text within the field of law, the translator should always remember that the
legal system of the source text (ST) is structured in a way that suits that culture and this is
reflected in the legal language; similarly, the target text (TT) is to be read by someone who is
familiar with the other legal system (corresponding to the jurisdiction for which TT is prepared)
and its language. Taking into consideration that not every country has the same legal system, in
some cases legal concepts do not have an equivalent in the target language. Codes and laws have
been created in order to correspond to a particular country or culture and when the legal term
does not have an equivalent in the target language, the translator needs to recreate the concept
and the whole idea attached to the legal expression.
For this reason, the translator has to be guided by certain standards of linguistic, social and
cultural equivalence between the language used in the source text (ST) to produce a text (TT) in
the target language. Those standards correspond to a variety of different principles defined as
different approaches to translation in Translation theory. It is very important to deliver faultless a
legal translation.
1.4. Cultural differences, a source of difficulty in legal translations

Another source of difficulty in legal translation is represented by the cultural differences.
Language and culture or social contexts are closely integrated and interdependent.
A legal culture is illustrated by those historically conditioned attitudes about the nature of law
and about the proper structure and operation of a legal system that are at large in the society.
Law is an expression of the culture, and it is expressed through legal language. Legal language,
like other language use, is a social practice. Each country has its own legal language representing
the social reality of its specific legal order.
Legal translators must surmount cultural encumbrances between the SL and TL societies when
reproducing a TL version of a law originally written for the SL reader. In this regard, Weston
writes that the most important general characteristic of any legal translation is that an unusually
large proportion of the text is culture-specific.
The existence of different legal cultures and traditions is a major reason because of which legal
languages are different from one another, and will remain so. Furthermore, it is a reason for
which legal language within each national legal order is not and will not be the same as ordinary
language. (Deborah Cao, Translating Law, 2007, pp.31-32)