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Research in Language

The Journal of University of Lodz

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Multilingual Legislation in the European Union. EU and National Legislative-Language Styles and Terminology

Colin Robertson
  • Council of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium
Published Online: 2011-06-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10015-011-0011-3

Multilingual Legislation in the European Union. EU and National Legislative-Language Styles and Terminology

EU law is multilingual and multi-cultural. It is initially drafted in one language, now frequently English, often by non-native speakers and then translated into the other EU languages. Amendments may be proposed that are drafted in a different language. The result is a single multilingual text created in 23 language versions that are authentic within the context of the EU legal order. These circumstances have led EU legal language to develop its own terminology and legislative style as a separate genre.

One question is to identify different national cultural drafting styles and traditions that lie behind the creation of EU legislative texts and terminology. The Member State traditions vary, yet they merge in the EU legislative texts. In order to assist in the understanding of EU legislative texts, it is useful to reflect on how they are constructed and the features and requirements lying behind their creation, interpretation and transposition.

One approach is to consider a specific piece of EU text in a range of languages and consider how the text is reproduced in each language in terms of structure and terminology. Since the original draft is frequently made by non-native speakers and then translated into the other EU languages, which are bound by the structure of the base version, we obtain little information from it about divergent national linguistic and legislative methods. However, if the EU text is a directive which is transposed into national law, we should be able also to look at the national implementing legislation intended to implement the directive. The implementing texts are produced within the national legal context and, one assumes, aim at similar results, as laid down by the directive. Thus it could be expected that they should provide vehicles for study between the national systems and between each national system and the EU legal order. The paper explores these ideas to see where they lead.

Keywords: multilingual legislation; national law; national language styles; environmental law; terminology

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Published Online: 2011-06-17

Published in Print: 2011-06-01



Citation Information: Research in Language, ISSN (Online) 2083-4616, ISSN (Print) 1731-7533, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10015-011-0011-3. Export Citation

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