The Linguist

The Linguist 55,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 12 of 35 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 The Linguist 13 FEATURES The student had wanted to talk about the Herrenhaus ('House of Lords'), which was the upper chamber of the Austrian parliament until 1918. Herrenhaus can, indeed, be used to refer to a stately home, but in the given context the student had made the wrong choice. For a professional translator with adequate research skills, the Herrenhaus would not have posed a problem, but the anecdote illustrates the demands that come with specialist terms peculiar to the field. Collecting words Researching vocabulary can be a challenge, as specialised bilingual dictionaries that cover the subtleties of the terminology are rare. For me, the solution is to read a lot of relevant literature, and book reviews in particular, in both of my languages. When an interesting piece of research is available in translation, I use the opportunity to learn from the choices made by the translator. Even if I would have chosen a different approach to a certain word or phrase, I will usually benefit from the exercise. Sometimes there may even be a contemporary translation of a historic legal text, as is the case of the Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (the Austrian civil code of 1811), which appeared in English translation in 1866. Another example, working in the other direction, is the landmark ruling of the King's Bench in Porter v. Freudenberg (1915), which was of considerable importance for alien enemies in World War I and thus published in German and Austrian newspapers. In such cases, and particularly if the translation has a (semi-)official character, I might quote from this translation rather than producing my own, adding an explanatory note if necessary. A more communicative method of 'collecting words' is to follow the scholarly debates of the discipline, either in person at international conferences or by subscribing to some of the many email lists through which academics exchange information on their research areas. One task that can be particularly tricky is the translation of quotations from historic sources that use archaic language. On the one hand, the translation must be linguistically correct and perfectly decodable for the reader, but on the other hand it must convey the particular character of the source text. The risk lies in the production of some kind of 'pseudo-Shakespearean' text that might seem ridiculous. It is helpful that the target audience – i.e. academics working in historical and philosophical disciplines – tend to be competent linguistically and usually have at least some passive knowledge of the major Western European languages. Thus, the most elegant solution can sometimes be to leave the passage in the original language and to add, either in brackets or as a footnote, an unpretentious, modern-sounding rendition in the target language. Creating a glossary My most recent commission is the compilation of a book-length German-to-English glossary on the terminology used by the Austrian legal theorist Hans Kelsen (1881-1973). Today, Kelsen is considered to be one of the most important legal scholars of the 20th century. His broad oeuvre ranges from a general theory of the law and state (his famous 'pure theory of law') to a theoretical engagement with democracy. Kelsen's body of work is bilingual: he immigrated to the United States in 1940 and continued his academic career at the University of California, Berkeley, and some of his ideas were published in English as well as in German. They also received attention in case law jurisdictions. In recent years, interest in Kelsen has been steadily increasing overseas, and further demand for translations of works by and on Kelsen is expected, primarily from German into English. A major research project concerned with his American years, and the dissemination of his legal thinking across the globe, is under way at the University of Vienna, which has furthered the international visibility of his works. In this context, I was approached by the leading Kelsen scholar and biographer Thomas Olechowski, who wanted to provide translators with a comprehensive and reliable glossary in order to promote uniformity and coherence in the various translations that are expected to be undertaken in the coming years. Together we selected a number of typical texts that were available in both languages and which serve as the basis for the glossary. This descriptive approach, which incorporates the work of various translators from different generations and diverse backgrounds, has the advantage of building on previous achievements and is expected to contribute to a higher quality of future translations. For me, personally, it is an opportunity not only to revise my own term base but also to reflect on the challenges peculiar to this particular sub-field of legal translation. DEFINING MURDER "Even such a seemingly basic concept as murder [above] does not correspond exactly to Mord in Austrian law, which in turn is not the same as Mord in Germany" © SHUTTERSTOCK

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