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Legal system: an additional variable in the analysis of short-term diachronic evolution of legal terminology

  • Katia Peruzzo EMAIL logo

Abstract

The inclusion of specialised corpora in terminological studies since the early 1990s has allowed for the observation and description of the behaviour of terminology in authentic linguistic contexts. As a result, what is nowadays known as “Textual Terminology” (Bourigault & Slodzian 1999, Pour une terminologie textuelle. Terminologies Nouvelles 19. 29–32) has become commonplace practice in the study of terminology. This new approach to terminology has led to the development of alternative paradigms to the General Theory of Terminology and to increasing interest in terminological variation, i.e. the existence of multiple terms to refer to a single concept. In this paper, the focus is on terminological variation in legal terminology. Variation in terminology can be studied from a number of perspectives and the one undertaken here is diachronic. The aim of the paper is to determine whether legal terminology, being “the most visible and striking linguistic feature of legal language” (Cao 2007: 53, Translating law. Clevedon/Buffalo/Toronto: Multilingual Matters) but also deemed to change very slowly (Lemmens 2011, The slow dynamics of legal language: Festina lente? Terminology 17(1). 74–93), is subject to terminological variation in the short term and, if so, what type of variation it experiences. To do so, European Union legal acts in English and Italian and national legal acts in Italian dealing with the topic of victims of crime and their rights were examined and concrete examples of denominative and conceptual variation were extracted. The presence of two legal systems in the analysis made it necessary to add the ‘legal system’ variable to the methodological framework to provide a more comprehensive picture of the types of short-term variation detected. The inclusion of this variable led to the classification of the variants into two types, i.e. ‘intra-systemic’ and ‘inter-systemic’ variation. Moreover, an attempt was also made to classify the variants discussed in the paper against Picton’s typology for the description of short-term knowledge evolution through terminology (Picton 2014, The dynamics of terminology in short-term diachrony. A proposal for a corpus-based methodology to observe knowledge evolution. In R. Temmerman & M. Van Campenhoudt (eds.), Dynamics and terminology. An interdisciplinary perspective on monolingual and multilingual culture-bound communication, 157–182. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins). This attempt resulted in the recognition of the lack of suitable categories for all the types of variation identified and thus of the need for further investigation of the dynamics of legal terminology embedded in a multi-level jurisdiction such as the EU.

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Doctor Andrea Cabiale and Jacopo Della Torre for a number of helpful discussions on the interpretation of national and supranational legal provisions and Professor Marella Magris for precious remarks during the course of this study.

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

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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