Research models and methods in legal translation

Lucja Biel, Jan Engberg


The introduction presents an overview of traditional research methods in Legal Translation Studies and discusses new developments as represented by the papers comprised in the special issue. The predominant methodology is corpus-based; there is a clear shift from qualitative to quantitative methods. Corpus-based methods are applied to the study of local phenomena, such as terms or phrasemes, and of global phenomena, such as genres and macrogenres, as well as they analyse practical decisions made by legal translators with a view to developing new tools and resources for translators. Other directions include: the application of comparative law methods, sociology of translation and Critical Discourse Analysis. Overall, there is growing interest in the communicative, pragmatic, cognitive and social aspects of legal translation. As the papers demonstrate, research into legal translation requires methodological eclectism and triangulation, as well as further integration along the interdisciplinary lines.


legal translation; translation of multilingual law; Legal Translation Studies; research methods; research models; methodological triangulation; interdisciplinarity; corpus-based methodologies; sociology of translation; translation process

Full Text:



Alcaraz, E. V., & Hughes, B. (2002). Legal translation explained. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Antia, B. E. (2001). Terminological investigations into specialized knowledge and texts: A case study of legislative discourse. Terminology, 7(1), 5–29.

Asensio, R. M. (2007). Specialised translation: A concept in need of revision. Babel, 53(1), 48–55.

Baaij, C. J. W. (2012). Fifty years of multilingual interpretation in the European Union. In L. M. Solan & P. M. Tiersma (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language and law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199572120.013.0016.

Baker, M. (1993). Corpus linguistics and translation studies: Implications and applications. In M. Baker, G. Francis, & E. Tognini-Bonelli (Eds.), Text and technology: In honour of John Sinclair (pp. 233–250). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Baker, M. (1995). Corpora in translation studies: An overview and some suggestions for future research. Target, 7(2), 223–243.

Bassnett, S. (2012). Translation studies at a cross-roads. Target, 24(1), 215–225.

Bhatia, V. K. (1997). Translating legal genres. In A. Trosborg (Ed.), Text typology and translation (pp. 203–213). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bhatia, V. K. (2004). Worlds of written discourse. London: Continuum.

Bhatia, V. K., Langton, N. M., & Lung, J. (2004). Legal discourse: Opportunities and threats for corpus linguistics. In U. Connor & T. A. Upton (Eds.), Discourse in the professions: Perspectives from corpus linguistics (pp. 203–231). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Brems, E., Meylaerts, R., & van Doorslaer, L. (2012). A discipline looking back and looking forward: An introduction. Target, 24(1), 1–14.

Cabré Castellví, M. T. (2003). Theories of terminology: Their description, prescription and explanation. Terminology, 9(2), 163–199.

Caliendo, G. (2007). Modality and communicative interaction in EU law. In C. N. Candlin & M. Gotti (Eds.), Intercultural aspects of specialized communication (pp. 241–259). Bern: Peter Lang.

Caliendo, G., Di Martino, G., & Venuti, M. (2005). Language and discourse features of EU secondary legislation. In G. Cortese & A. Duszak (Eds.), Identity, community, discourse: English in intercultural settings (pp. 381–404). Bern: Peter Lang.

Cao, D. (2007). Translating law. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Chesterman, A. (2004). Hypotheses about translation universals. In G. Hansen, K. Malmkjær, & D. Gile (Eds.), Claims, changes and challenges in translation studies: Selected contributions from the EST Congress, Copenhagen 2001 (pp. 1–13). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Chromá, M. (2004). Legal translation and the dictionary. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.

Cronin, M. (2010). The Translation crowd. Revista Tradumàtica, 8. Online:

Dollerup, C. (2001). Complexities of EU language work. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 9(4), 271–292.

Engberg, J. (2002). Legal meaning assumptions: What are the consequences for legal interpretation and legal translation? International Journal of the Semiotics of Law, 15(4), 375–388.

Engberg, J. (2013). Comparative law for translation: The key to successful mediation between legal systems. In A. Borja Albi & F. Prieto Ramos (Eds.), Legal translation in context: Professional issues and prospects (pp. 9–25). Oxford: Peter Lang.

Felici, A. (2010). Translating EU law: Legal issues and multiple dynamics. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 18(2), 95–108.

Foley, R. (2002). Legislative language in the EU: The Crucible. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 15, 361–374.

Garzone, G. (2000). Legal translation and functionalist approaches: A contradiction in terms? Geneva: Actes. Online:

Gentzler, E. (2003) Interdisciplinary connections. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 11(1), 11–24.

Gémar, J.-C. (1979). La traduction juridique et son enseignement: Aspects théoriques et pratiques. Meta: Translators’ Journal, 24(1), 35–53.

Goffin, R. (1994). L’eurolecte: Oui, jargon communautaire: Non. Meta: Translators’ Journal, 39(4), 636–642.

de Groot, G.-R. (1988). Problems of legal translation from the point of view of a comparative lawyer. In P. Nekeman (Ed.), XIth World Congress of FIT: Proceedings (pp. 407–421). Maastricht: Euroterm.

Harvey, M. (2002.) What’s so special about legal translation? Meta: Translators’ Journal, 47(2), 177–185.

Heid, U., Fritzinger, F., Hauptmann, S., Weidenkaff, J., & Weller, M. (2008). Providing corpus data for a dictionary for German juridical phraseology. In A. Storrer, A. Geyken, A. Siebert, & K.-M. Würzner (Eds.), Text resources and lexical knowledge (pp. 133–144). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hjort-Pedersen M., & Faber, D. (2010). Explicitation and implicitation in legal translation: A process study of trainee translators. Meta: Translators’ Journal, 55(2), 237–250.

Holmes, J. S. (1988b/2004). The name and nature of translation studies. In L. Venuti (Ed.), The translation studies reader (pp. 180–192, 2nd ed.).London: Routledge.

Kjær, A. L. (2007). Legal translation in the European Union: A research field in need of a new approach. In K. Kredens & S. Goźdź-Roszkowski (Eds.), Language and the law: International outlooks (pp. 69–95). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Koskinen, K. (2008). Translating institutions: An ethnographic study of EU translation. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Lambert, J. (2009). The status and position of legal translation: A chapter in the discursive construction of societies. In F. Olsen, A. Lorz, & D. Stein (Eds.), Translation issues in language and law (pp. 76–95). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

L’Homme, M.-C., Heid, U., & Sager, J. C. (2003). Terminology during the past decade (1994–2004): An editorial statement. Terminology, 9(2), 151–161.

McAuliffe, K. (2011). Hybrid texts and uniform law?: The multilingual case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 24, 97–115.

Orozco, M., & Sánchez-Gijón, P. (2011). New resources for legal translators. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 19(1), 25–44.

Pommer, S. (2006). Rechtsübersetzung und Rechtsvergleichung: Translatologische Fragen zur Interdisziplinarität. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Pozzo, B. (2012). English as a legal lingua franca in the EU multilingual context. In C. J. W. Baaij (Ed.), The role of legal translation in legal harmonization (pp. 183–202). Alphen aan den Rijn: Wolters Kluwer.

Sandrini, P. (1996). Terminologiearbeit im Recht: Deskriptiver, begriffsorientierter Ansatz vom Standpunkt des Übersetzers. IITF Series 8. Wien: TermNet.

Šarčević, S. (1997). New approach to legal translation. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.

Šarčević, S. (2000). Legal translation and translation theory: A receiver-oriented approach. Genéve 2000: Actes

Šarčević, S. (2007). Making multilingualism work in the enlarged European Union. In K. Kredens & S. Goźdź-Roszkowski (Eds.), Language and the law: International outlooks (pp. 35–56). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Šarčević, S. (2012). Challenges to the legal translator. In L. M. Solan & P. M. Tiersma (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language and law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199572120.013.0014.

Stubbs, M. (2004). Language corpora. In A. Davies & C. Elder (Eds.), Handbook of applied linguistics (pp. 106–132). Oxford: Blackwell.

Temmerman, R. (2000). Towards new ways of terminology description: The sociocognitive approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Tessuto, G. (2008). Legal concepts and terminography: Analysis and application. In V. K. Bhatia, Ch. N. Candlin, & P. Evangelisti Allori (Eds.), Language, culture and the law: The formulation of legal concepts across systems and cultures (pp. 283–302). Bern: Peter Lang.

Wolf, M., & Fukari, A. (Eds.) (2007). Constructing a sociology of Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.