Legal Translation Pragmatics : Legal Meaning as Text-External Convention – the Case of ‘Chattels
The chapter addresses several dilemmas associated with the semantic structure of legal concepts denoting proprietary and other legal relations, which pose difficulties in cross-lingual conveyance. Legal meaning is claimed to represent a text-external convention applied by the legal profession as default knowledge. Such default knowledge is ascribed to legal concepts from within respective fields of law; it is arranged in elaborated hierarchies with sophisticated linkages and correlations among those concepts. Conceptual content of certain terminologies can evolve over time to meet evolving legal relationships in any one jurisdiction, as the case of ‘chattels’ reveals. Instances of conceptual conventions are profiled by applying a ‘referential portraying’ method, however even scarce data can be indicative of conceptual collisions between different types of meaning within one word-form. The term ‘referential elasticity’ is introduced to highlight semantic properties of technical terms of law and to emphasize their pragmatically-conditioned nature. An English–Russia language pair is employed for a cross-lingual analysis based on lexicographic data. The case studies of grammaticalized pragmatic meaning illustrate the value of pragmatic theory applications to real-life legal discourse. In legal translation, pragmatic factors appear to make cross-linguistic transposition of legal knowledge a complicated task.