Bilingual and multilingual legal dictionaries in the European Union: A critical bibliography

Gerard-Rene de Groot, Conrad J.P. van Laer

Research output: Book/ReportBookProfessional

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Legal dictionaries are useful tools in preparing quality translations. Unfortunately, their quality is often questionable due to a lack of reliability. Many such dictionaries deserve serious criticism, which becomes clear when our evaluation criteria are applied. Based on comparative legal research, these criteria are applied to the basic organisation of bilingual and multilingual legal dictionaries.The crucial issue in dictionary assessment is to establish a sound basis for criticism. We are convinced that this basis is found in the nature of the language of the law. The language of the law is very much a system-bound language, i.e. a language related to a specific legal system. Translators of legal terminology are obliged therefore to practice comparative law. Based on these crucial considerations, desiderata for reliable legal dictionaries may be formulated. A legal dictionary should indicate, for example, the degree of equivalence, or the absence thereof, in the target language-related legal system.From this broad perspective we have developed a typology for the purpose of classifying hundreds of recently published legal dictionaries containing the legal languages of all EU Member States. We have established the following three categories; each successive category shows a higher degree of quality1 Word lists WORDThose bilingual or multilingual lists of terms offering unsubstantiated translations; equivalence is assumed; no explanation as to different meanings is offered. Solely useful for words not found in other dictionaries;2 Explanatory Dictionaries EXPLThose also containing sample sentences illustrating the relevant linguistic context; 3 Comparative Dictionaries COMP These also refer to legal systems and/or legal sources, such as legislation or the literature, and to legal areas or comparative law. They distinguish between legal systems that share the same language.Our final conclusion is that most legal dictionaries must be classified as a word list, which implies here that they are of dubious quality. To date, few legal dictionaries have attempted to meet our criteria. Dictionaries that are based on comparative legal research, on the other hand, offer advantages that render them useful to professional translators.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMaastricht University
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2005

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