Frame-Semantics meets Multilingual Legal Terminology. Theoretical Principles Based on a German-French Case Study - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2021

Frame-Semantics meets Multilingual Legal Terminology. Theoretical Principles Based on a German-French Case Study


Terminology aims primarily at elaborating standardized notions for the various complex concepts within specialized fields, intending to separate clearly defined technical terms from general lexical units that are used in every-day situations, with yet a wide range of vocabulary, that is specialized to some extent but cannot be delimited by terminological standards, emerging in between (ten Hacken 2010, 2015). For legal experts, for instance, the elaboration of precisely determined legal terms contributes to an overall specific understanding of legal concepts regardless of the possible ambiguities the same term may have in a general setting. At the same time, a variety of legal vocabulary, referred to as standards juridiques (Bernard, 2010), leaves room for interpretation within this highly specialized field. When it comes to legal translation, a thorough knowledge of the source and target legal systems becomes indispensable in order to transfer a legal text or a single legal term into another language (Griebel 2013). This knowledge poses a prerequisite for the comparison of legal systems as the search for a – generally (highly) approximative – equivalence in the target system is the key to allow the recipient to access the source text, which is subjected to a legal system that is unknown to her or him (De Groot 1999). The relevance of knowledge in the human processing of language in general, but also in specialized contexts, has been tackled and highlighted in the context of frame semantics arguing that specific knowledge segments, called frames, are activated during a recipient’s hearing or reading of language that enable them to understand the meaning, context and connotations, if any, of the sentence (Fillmore 1976). Though the FrameNet project (Fillmore/Atkins 1998) usually applies frame semantics to general language, excluding specialized fields (Faber 2005), the relevance of frames can also be linked to legal translation, specifically to the transfer of legal terminology where the ‘mainstream’ – so called wüsterian – organization and classification of terminology is often insufficient to provide the translator with knowledge for specific contexts only on the basis of necessary and sufficient conditions as they are encapsulated in classical terminological definitions. On the one hand, frame semantics has already been introduced to legal discourse analysis (Vogel 2015) and presented as crucial with regard to the interpretation of statutes (Busse 2002). On the other hand, Faber et al. (2005) has elaborated a frame-based terminology conception for the structuring of specialized technology-oriented fields. This presentation argues for a merging of both perspectives, proposing a structuring of legal terminology from a frame-semantic point of view to allow an overall understanding of contextualized legal terms and the detecting of equivalences in the target language when it comes to legal translation. This will be exemplified on the basis of the German and French legal systems and languages, namely on procedural law and the constitution of courts, two legal subfields that differ between states and jurisdictions. Frames are proposed as knowledge segments for the understanding, comparison and transfer of legal terminology. To give just one example, the translation of the French concept of tribunal judiciaire into the German legal system requires the translator to refer to various specialized knowledge segments in the source language. For one, an understanding of the organization of courts within that system, which constitutes an entire subarea of law, and the positioning of that specific court becomes key to comprehend the relationship to other legal institutions within the same area. Civil procedure can be construed as another frame within the law where courts play an important role. In this case, the knowledge referring to appellate procedures which allow courts to be divided into different levels becomes relevant in certain situations where the French court of original jurisdiction in civil matters may experience appealable errors in its procedure or court judgment. As the amount in controversy may limit a case to a so called tribunal de proximité or chambre détachée de proximité, it is seen as another relevant factor of knowledge for the understanding of the competence of the court. Various knowledge elements are evoked when dealing with a legal term, the relevance of which can vary according to the two legal subareas that the term is used in. The legal comparison process requires detecting an equivalent legal term in the target system, leading to a similar structuring of specialized terms in the German legal system, as is the case here. The specialized term Amtsgericht refers to a similar court institution in Germany, that is subject to approximately the same classification as the French court. However, its relationship to other institutions, the amount of controversy and cases that belong to the court’s specific subject-matter jurisdiction, among other elements, differ from the French system and constitute necessary knowledge segments for the translator for her or his assessment of the level of equivalence between these two legal concepts, while taking into account that, as opposed to other specialized fields that are mostly universal (Arntz et al. 2014), a full equivalence is generally impossible in legal translation as soon as different systems are involved. The areas of civil procedure and court constitution will be used as research examples for the suggested frame-based terminology in specialized legal discourse. The linking that has already been established by Faber et al. (2005) pleading for a dynamic process-oriented frame-based organization, premised on Coastal Engineering, which comprises ‘dynamic process’ as one of its descriptive elements (Faber et al. 2005), will be used as a precedent and basis for procedural law and other areas of law. This paper will present a structuring of frames for the terminology described above according to agent, process and patient/result and description templates.
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hal-03248315 , version 1 (03-06-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03248315 , version 1


Laurent Gautier, Waldemar Nazarov. Frame-Semantics meets Multilingual Legal Terminology. Theoretical Principles Based on a German-French Case Study. ToTh 2021 - Terminologie et Ontologie, Université Savoie Mont-Blanc, Jun 2021, Chambéry, France. ⟨hal-03248315⟩


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