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Foreignising and domesticating strategies in translating legal texts

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Abstract

This article starts by briefly introducing the origin, importance, and complexity of legal translation as well as the relationship between legal translation and comparative law; that is, the activities of a legal translator and those of a comparatist. The article then continues with its main topic, which is to illustrate problems in domesticating and foreignising translation strategies. Before translating a text from one language into another, the translator needs to mediate between two cultures and make a choice: to adopt a strategy aimed at maintaining the morphosyntactic, lexical, and stylistic structures of the source language, or to choose a strategy intended to convey certain morphosyntactic, lexical, and stylistic aspects in order to bring the translation closer to the target language and culture (Venuti, Lawrence. 1995. The translator’s invisibility. A history of translation. London: Routledge). Like other translators, a legal translator has various choices to make, including whether to opt for mainly foreignising (source-oriented) translation strategies, whose purpose is to maintain, observe, and respect the literal meaning of the source language, legal system, and legal culture as much as possible. On the other hand, the translator may prefer mainly domesticating (target-oriented) translation strategies, whose aim is to reformulate the message and adapt the original content while observing rules and considering the linguistic, legal, and cultural features of the target language and culture (Paolucci, Sandro. 2013a. Strategia estraniante e strategia addomesticante nella traduzione dei testi giuridici. Linguistica 53(2). 73–89). Although the dichotomy between foreignising and domesticating translations has a long history (reflection on a mainly literal translation or a more liberal translation was discussed as early as ancient Rome, especially in literary translation; Ožbot, Martina. 2016. O drugačnosti prevodov in drugačnosti njihovega sodobnega raziskovanja. In Zupan Sosič (ed.), Drugačnost v slovenskem jeziku, literaturi in kulturi: 52. seminar slovenskega jezika, literature in kulture. 28–37. Ljubljana: Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete), this article first presents translation theories by scholars such as Schleiermacher, Venuti, and others. It continues with a more detailed focus on the use of foreignising and domesticating strategies in legal translation. After a short presentation of some basic elements and factors that contribute to determining the translator’s strategic choices, a methodology is proposed with specific cases, supported by concrete examples in which the translator should mainly use a foreignising translation and cases in which a domesticating translation is more suitable, efficient, or even necessary. The proposal has been confirmed by the results of a survey conducted in 2016 among forty Italian and Slovenian legal translators who were asked to translate from Slovene into Italian some legal terms contained in normative, expository and informative legal texts.

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Received: 2016-12-12
Accepted: 2017-2-7
Published Online: 2017-12-12
Published in Print: 2017-12-20

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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