Defining Brazilian legal terminology/concepts in English: a relevance-based approach

Autore:Celina Frade
Carica:The A. is Associate Professor of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) at the Department of Technologies and Languages, Multidisciplinary Institute, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pagine:225-249
RIEPILOGO

Linguistic theories and electronic media, with the aid of computer technology, have proved very useful to provide access to institutional discourses and specialized knowledge to a wide range of users across countries and languages. This is the particular case of legal discourse and its various contexts of use. As one of the most formally and rigidly structured institutions in every society, the... (visualizza il riepilogo completo)

 
ESTRATTO GRATUITO
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Defining Brazilian legal terminology/concepts in English:
a relevance-based approach
CELI NA FRA DE
SUMM ARY:1. Introduction – 2. The contextual background – 3. Relevance and infor-
mation processing – 4. The organization and the analysis of the STF’s legal glossary –
5. Defining Brazilian legal terminology/concepts in English – 6. Discussion – 7. Final
remarks – 8. Appendix
If, in everyday situations, there is seldom any room for doubt and interpretation –
this is not solved by the situation, the conditions and the surrounding of the
utterance – then, there is, however, in legal usages of the language,
more room for doubt and interpretation1.
1. INT RODU CTI ON
The awareness that law and language are strictly connected is shared by
several areas of knowledge, including information and communication tech-
nologies. According to Francesconi et al.2, they are “characterized by the
coexistence of two autonomous but structurally similar systems: both are
endowed with rules that underlie the construction of the system itself, that
guide its evolution and guarantee its consistency”. In this context, electronic
media with the aid of computer technology have proved very useful to pro-
vide access to institutional discourses and specialized knowledge in legal do-
mains to a wide range of users across countries and languages. According to
Agar3, institutional frames, user frames and directives comprise the segments
The A. is Associate Professor of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) at the Department
of Technologiesand Languages, Multidisciplinar y Institute, FederalRural University of Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil.
1B. WENN STRÖM ,The lawyer and the language, Uppsala, Iustus Förlag,1999, p. 129.
2E. FRAN CESC ONI, S. MONTEMAGNI, W. PETERS, D. TISC ORNI A,Integrating a
bottom-up and top-down methodology for building semantic resources for the multilingual legal
domain, in Francesconi E., Montemagni S., PetersW., Tiscornia D. (eds.), “Semantic Process-
ing of Legal Texts. Where the Language of Law Meets the Lawof Language”, Berlin, Springer,
2010, p. 96.
3M. AGAR,Institutional discourse, Vol. 5, 1985, n. 3, p. 148.
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226 Informatica e diritto /Diritto, linguaggio e tecnologie dell’informazione
of institutional discourses and represent “an intermediate level between the
human contact which led to the discourse and the broader characteristics of
the society in which it was embedded”.
In particular, the discourse of the courts (at any level), one of the most
formally and rigidly structured institutions in every society, produce a spe-
cialized language which involves “the linking of general and abstract legisla-
tive statements to their linguistic manifestation”4. In Brazil, a Portuguese-
speaking country, the Supreme Federal Court’s (hereinafter STF) official
website displays information about its history and operation in English (and
Spanish) in an attempt to interact more effectively with foreign users un-
der legal globalization. It also includes an on-line legal glossary in English
with the translated definition of some key terminology/concepts of Brazil’s
civil law system mostly extracted from legislation and court cases. Although
specifically aimed at the “international reader”, the glossary may be a useful
reference tool for Law students, legal linguists, translators and laypeople as
well.
The aim of this article is to provide a linguistic analysis of how legal ter-
minology/concepts are defined in the glossary in the light of the principle of
relevance5and consistency. We claim that:
a) the glossary will contain relevant information if and only if the defini-
tions are partly assumed by earlier acts of comprehension;
b) information provided in the definitions will be relevant if it is able to
produce contextual effects and
c) informationprovided requires the least effort on the part of the reader
in order to be worth processing.
Otherwise, it will not fulfill the necessary and sufficient conditions for
relevance in this specific institutional context. At the same time, we dis-
cuss how new trends in information/terminology processing can improve
the quality of on-line specialized glossaries.
The assumption is that the making of the STF’s glossary involved the
compilation of terminology/concepts extracted from a representative body
of legislative and court texts in Portuguese which was further processed by
terminologists/translators and legal experts. Moreover, we assume that the
selective and translation methodology was both controlled and supported
4E. FRAN CESC ONI, S. M ONTEMAGNI, W.P ETERS,D. T ISCOR NIA,op. cit., p. 96.
5D. SPER BER, D. WI LSON ,Relevance. Communication and cognition, Oxford, Basil
Blackwell, 1986.

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