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Corpus-based Research on the Linguistic Aspects of Translated Legal Texts: With a Focus on the Passive Voice in Legal Translation

  • The Journal of Translation Studies
  • Abbr : JTS
  • 2020, 21(2), pp.251-284
  • DOI : 10.15749/jts.2020.21.2.010
  • Publisher : The Korean Association for Translation Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Interpretation and Translation Studies
  • Received : May 5, 2020
  • Accepted : May 25, 2020
  • Published : June 30, 2020

Jieun Lee 1 Choi, Hyo-eun 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper seeks to throw some light on the linguistic aspects of legal translation with a focus on the frequent use of the passive voice in Korean-English legal translation. Legal translation is a domain of specialized translation, which requires an understanding of the relevant laws and legal language, in addition to translation competence. In each jurisdiction, law has its own languages and every legal system is embedded in a specific culture and language. The passive voice is considered as one of the main features of legal language in general although it is not as common as the active voice. The passive voice may be employed in Korean to English legal translation to preserve the source language style or conform to the characteristics of legal English. Furthermore, the characteristics of Korean legal language can also affect the use of the passive voice in the translated statutes. In order to examine the use of the passive voice in translated statutes, we built corpora of Korean statutes, their English translations, and the United States Code. The three-set corpora consisted of Korean Criminal Act, Criminal Procedure Act, Civil Act, and Civil Procedure Act, the official English translations provided by the Korean Law Translation Center of Korea Legislation Research Institute, and the non-translated U.S. Code which served as a comparable corpus. The corpus analysis revealed that the frequency of the passive voice in the translations far surpassed those of the source texts, namely the Korean statutes and the U.S. federal law. The high frequency shown in the translated statutes is mostly due to the linguistic features of Korean legal language: Inexplicit subjects due to subject ellipses in Korean statutes contributed to passive voice constructions in the translated texts. Further research is needed to investigate if such over-use of the passive voice is acceptable from the perspective of target language recipients and verify the regularities of translated statutes drawing on a larger scale corpus.

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