Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

The Cultural Embeddedness of Legal Texts

Alenka Kocbek1
1University of Primorska

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


The functionalist approaches in translation science lay great stress on the principle of cultural embeddedness of the source and the target languages and accordingly view translation as an intercultural transfer. In legal communication based on legal texts, communicative situations are directly affected by the legal systems of the source and target cultures. The legal system of one of the parties involved or, more rarely, a supranational legal system, is generally adopted as the communication framework and thus defines the language to be used. The translatability of legal texts, however, directly depends on the relatedness of the legal systems underlying the translation. The communicating parties therefore need to be well acquainted with the legal system(s) involved. This is especially the case when using English as the language of communication, as the Anglo-American legal system, based essentially on common law, differs substantially from continental law, to which most of European countries belong. The non- equivalence of many legal concepts and terms pertaining to these two systems thus has to be taken into consideration. In this paper, cases of non-equivalence will be illustrated with examples from the terminology used to define different types of system-bound legal professions and court structures, as well as with specific terms referring to particular areas of law, such as company law.

Keywords: legal translation; lingua franca; cultural embeddedness; common law; continental law; memes



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