Legal transformations in Spanish: an 'audiencia' in Chile
Issue: Vol 8 No. 2 (2001)
Subject Areas: Linguistics
There is a small literature on the transformations that occur in transcripts in legal English (Eades 1996; Walker 1990), but little on what happens in languages other than English. This is an important issue for Roman/Continental law systems, which rely in their decision making largely upon written transcripts of oral evidence. This study examines the linguistic consequences of the transcription process, based upon Spanish language tape recordings of oral submissions, and the written ‘declaraciones’ (statements) that emerge, in a labour court in Santiago de Chile. It reveals far-reaching consequences for the language of the evidence, particularly because of the greater planning and editing potential of writing. There are tendencies to move to more complex syntactic structures, to use more passive type structures thereby colouring blame attribution, to use more technical language, and to edit material, both unnecessary redundancies and substantive facts. These findings support current changes to the Chilean justice system, which replace this type of interview with open court hearings.
Author: John Gibbons