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Interpreting legal arguments. Insights from the first ICC trial

  • Emanuele Brambilla EMAIL logo


The terminological problems and pragmatic challenges interpreters regularly face in courts are often posed by judges’ and lawyers’ recourse to argument strategies. However, the analysis of legal argumentation in courtroom interaction has been substantially overlooked in interpreting scholarly settings. Against this background, the paper outlines the preliminary findings of the ArgIntIus project, bridging argumentation theory and court interpreting studies. The project is based on a parallel corpus of selected trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC); building on the assumption that familiarity with the argumentative routines of legal experts plays a crucial role in providing quality interpreting services, the project aims at detecting recurring argument strategies used in ICC trials and analysing their renditions by experienced interpreters, with a view to promoting the quest for pragmatic equivalence in interpreter-mediated courtroom interaction. The paper focuses on the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and draws on argumentation theory to analyse judicial discourse. The findings suggest that specific argument strategies are recurrently implemented by ICC lawyers; particularly, the relativity of legal arguments stands out, as their use often varies depending on whether the arguer is a member of the prosecution or the defence team. Notably, legal arguments are regularly reproduced by ICC interpreters who, thus, appear to be aware of the pragmatic implications of legal argumentation. A number of argument strategies and their respective interpretations are discussed, together with the training implications of the research project and the contribution of argumentation theory to court interpreting studies.


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Received: 2016-12-12
Accepted: 2017-3-17
Published Online: 2017-12-12
Published in Print: 2017-12-20

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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