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International Journal of Legal Discourse

Editor-in-Chief: Cheng, Le

Managing Editor: Sun, Yuxiu

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A corpus-based investigation of modal verbs in Chinese civil-commercial legislation and its English versions

Jiamin Pei / Jian Li
Published Online: 2018-07-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijld-2018-2003


This paper aims to investigate the distribution of semantic meanings and values of modal verbs in Chinese civil-commercial legislation and its English versions. This is a corpus-based study with two corpora (one is Chinese corpora including 33 Chinese civil-commercial legislative instruments totaling about 343,677 tokens and the other English corpora including 33 corresponding English versions totaling about 254,621 tokens) compiled according to the taxonomic law branches in the People’s Republic of China. The corpus tools, word2vector, AntConc 3.5.7 and SPSS 19.0, were employed for data filtering and analysis. Results of the study show that deontic modal verbs indicating obligation, permission and prohibition are the most frequently used type of modal verbs and the values of Chinese modal verbs and English modal verbs are significantly different. Moreover, the frequency of modal verbs in both corpora reflects the divergence of context culture between Chinese and English. Additionally, the choice of modal verbs in two corpora demonstrates the negotiability, compromise and humanity of Chinese civil-commercial legislation, which conforms to its interpersonal function. Furthermore, throughout analyzing the examples extracted from two corpora, this study attempts to provide some insights to the modal translation, during which the consistency and equivalence in terms of semantic meanings and modal values are of critical importance in legislative translation.

Keywords: corpus study; modal verbs; Chinese civil-commercial legislation; English versions; modal translation


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About the article

Received: 2018-03-19

Accepted: 2018-04-17

Published Online: 2018-07-18

Published in Print: 2018-08-28

Citation Information: International Journal of Legal Discourse, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 77–102, ISSN (Online) 2364-883X, ISSN (Print) 2364-8821, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijld-2018-2003.

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