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The translation of legal texts on the basis of Skopostheorie (in Greek)

Issue: Vol 8 No. 1 (2001)

Journal: International Journal of Speech Language and the Law

Subject Areas: Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v8i1.163


The aim of the thesis is to examine the feasibility of translating legal texts
for different purposes (skopoi), to establish linguistically the comparative
degree of difficulty for the two combinations English–Greek and
German–Greek and to propose a model for the teaching of specialized
translation. The theoretical infrastructure for the first aspect is the Skopostheorie.
This theory, introduced by the German scholars Reiss and
Vermeer, propounds a functional approach to translating, where the translator
detaches himself from the source text and prioritizes the skopos or
purpose and the effect of the translation on the final recipient.

Randomly selected professional translators rendered a particular
German lease (civil law) and a particular English lease (common law) into
Greek (civil law) for one specific skopos each. The translators did not
know that the translations would be used for research purposes. The designated
skopoi were selected on the basis of my experience as a translator.
In the first skopos the translators were asked to render both the English
and the German original for a layman with no legal knowledge; in the
second skopos they had to translate for a comparative lawyer wishing to
become acquainted with the formulation of leases in the legal source
system, while in the third skopos the translated text was bound for a
Greek court.

The analyses of the way the lexicon, the syntax and the textlinguistic
features of the source texts were translated for each skopos revealed that
none of the source texts were translated adequately as a whole. However,
indications were found within nearly every translation that a skopos-oriented
rendering of legal texts is possible. For example the common law
term landlord was rendered into Greek by the term ekmisqwt–z (lessor),
which is the one used in Greek leases (functional equivalent), and not by
the term idiokt–tjz (owner, landlord) thus depriving the comparative
lawyer of the denotation of the source term. However, the translation of
the term landlord as ekmisqwt–z was considered acceptable in the case of
the layman recipient. Comparing the translation processes for both pairs,
the higher degree of difficulty for the translation from English (common
law) into Greek (civil law) could be proven experimentally, since for the
transfer of meaning from one legal system into another the translator has
to consider more linguistic and legal parameters than in the translation of
the German lease (civil law) into Greek (civil law).

Finally, a model for teaching specialized translation structured around
Skopostheorie and the feasibility of translating legal texts for different
skopoi was introduced. The manipulation of the skopos for a particular
text allows the instructor to increase gradually the difficulty of the task by
asking the students to translate in the early stages for skopoi which
demand only a minimum of effort, for example to inform a potential client
about the content of a text. Later the task would be to translate a text for
someone interested in the structure of the source text, but who is ignorant
of the language, while the third level would be to ask the student to
produce a functionally equivalent text. That way the students gradually
acquire the necessary skills for a skopos-oriented translation and become
aware of the limits of language and the wider meaning of the term translation.

Author: Stefanos Vlachopoulos

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