Enrique Alcaraz and Brian Hughes' 2003 (1993)
Diccionario de términos jurídicos Inglés-Español Spanish-English
Barcelona: Ariel (7th edition)
ISBN number: 84-344-0520-2
Cost: Approx. 36 euros
Number of pages: 723
Number of terms:
English-Spanish: Around 165000 terms
Spanish-English: Around 150000 terms
or more than several decades by now, Professors Alcaraz and Hughes have developed substantial research in those areas known as of "English for Academic Purposes" and also "English for Professional Purposes", both within the wider field of "English for Special Purposes" or ESP. It may be argued that to a certain extent the line between professional and academic purposes is sometimes difficult to draw. The entire field of English for Law is probably a case in point, since researchers as well as practitioners in law will find it useful to embark on an in-depth study of this professional register, which necessarily covers both aspects. Besides, as will be illustrated next, another audience, not necessarily formed by experts but still likely to be involved in legal matters for very different reasons, will also need a certain familiarisation with the language being used in this particular context. The present dictionary will surely cater for the needs of all these potential readers.
To make this possible, the work does not only offer a substantially wide panorama of the lexis employed in legal language, because of the considerable number of entries to be found both in the English-Spanish and in the Spanish-English sections. In this new edition, more than three hundred lexical items, most of which are related to American Legal English, as well as to the changes introduced in Adjective Law in Britain since 1998, have been added, which shows the authors' endeavour to continuously update their work. Thus, the user of this dictionary will be able to find certain terms listed that are not registered in other works devoted to the descriptive study of legal language. For example, as Martín Mateo, author of the prologue to the sixth edition, noted, in the Spanish-English section this is the case of terms such as: adjudicación de obras por concurso, drogodependencia, narcotráfico, el tercio de libre disposición, admisión a trámite, ordenar la apertura de juicio oral, etc. Some of these terms have been introduced only very recently in the language, and the same holds for many English terms, like insider trading, class action, or time-sharing, to offer only some representative instances.
The work also contains certain terms which do not belong to the legal register, strictly speaking, but which will undoubtedly stand for useful information to the reader, and which have been incorporated because they have become widely used in the mass media. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that legal language may be used by both experts and laypeople, insofar as they are involved with legal documents or with legal causes of action. They are likely to employ the kind of vocabulary, expressions, and style that enables them to communicate. All this explains the existence and subsequent introduction in the dictionary of certain terms taken from the general, everyday speech, including colloquial and even vulgar terms. Hence, the reader is provided with explicit information regarding the kind of register in which terms may be found. Some instances to be found in the Spanish-English section are the following: sentar a alguien en el banquillo, of which both colloquial as well as rather vulgar translations are offered (COL: put somebody in the dock; SLANG: haul somebody up in front of the beak), or colloquial terms such as trullo, translated as clink, cooler or slammer, or words such as camello, of which both standard and colloquial translations are provided: pusher, dealer; drug peddler/ trafficker. Consequently, readers find information regarding the sort of context in which terms are likely to be used, as well as certain connotations that each lexical item may carry.
Information about the use of terms and the sort of contexts where they appear also concerns indications about the diatopic varieties or geographic dialects of which certain terms are characteristic. This is important because, as readers familiar with the complex intricacies of the Anglo-Saxon legal systems know, each of the different regions and countries have peculiar traits. This is particularly true of Scotland and the United States, despite the overall background, based upon common or case law, common to the legal systems of the entire Anglo-Saxon world.
Both authors have contributed extensively to the understanding of legal discourse, in Spanish as well as in English, and in the case of the latter, both in the British and the American varieties. This can be illustrated just by making reference to some of the works published by both professors, namely, El inglés jurídico (Alcaraz 1994), El inglés jurídico norteamericano (Alcaraz et al. 2000), El español jurídico (Alcaraz and Hughes 2001), or, recently, Legal Translation Explained (2002). The first three of these provide a thorough and detailed analysis and description of the most remarkable traits that characterize the legal register in the each of the three cultures being considered. As for Legal Translation Explained, it provides a wholly comprehensive and practical account of the features that define this form of specific, interlingual communication, in which translators are provided with sound and practical advice. It also lists the most common lexical items of legal English in other languages, such as German or French, thus broadening its scope, field, interest, and potential readership.
Therefore, the dictionary being reviewed here constitutes their first major, thorough exploration of legal English, and it has been continuously and rigorously revised and updated. As noted above, and as the authors themselves state, the potential audience of the dictionary may belong to very different backgrounds, and may, as a result, search for the fulfilment of fairly different needs. Needs analysis is, in fact, the first step to be undertaken when writing any piece of research within ESP (English for Special Purposes), as most scholars have emphasized (R.R. Jordan 1997; Hutchinson and Waters 1987; McDonough, J. 1984), and indeed lies at the core of the design of this work. Even though its primary audience may be translators and lawyers, the widely distinct contexts in which legal texts may be encountered results in the need of very different readers to cope with legal texts in their everyday professional practice, and even in other fields, such as literature or fiction.
Moreover, as Professor Martín Mateo, the author of the Prologue to this edition, notes, this work will also be found extremely helpful by scholars working in more recently developed legal disciplines. This is the case, for instance, of forensic linguistics or Post-modern Jurisprudence, which, at least as much as the others referred to above, call for constant co-operation between lawyers, linguists, and translators. This also demonstrates the authors' effort to keep the dictionary updated. The unquestionable usefulness of the present work for both English- and Spanish-speaking scholars is also enhanced by certain more extrinsic factors, which make the study of English legal discourse necessary by itself. Thus, and as Martín Mateo emphasizes, among the external factors that make this Dictionary indispensable and invaluable, the following aspects may be noted. To begin with, the increasing globalisation of the economy world-wide, which makes the language of the most economically most powerful country, the United States, also a lingua franca for international commerce, business, and consequently, the legal aspects that regulate such activities. In the second place, the influence of the peculiarities of the Anglo-Saxon juridical system is also reflected in the work. which often indicates not just the equivalent of the English term, for instance, but accompanies it with an explanation that deepens the significance of the term in the context of the cultural system to which it belongs. This will be found particularly helpful in the case of those words that are deeply entrenched within either culture, and which may not have a direct equivalent in the other as a result. Due to the different updates that each new edition of the dictionary has undergone, it lists even recently introduced words, which have become useful conceptual tools of everyday practice.
Accordingly, the dictionary contains not just terms that characteristically belong to the semantic fields of the different branches of law, but also introduces terms associated with other related disciplines, such as economy, business or commerce, since these may be endowed with legal meanings and consequences in particular contexts. The dictionary also echoes the increasing environmental concerns and lists lexical items related to the new, legal aspects presented by communication and information, including the "new mass media" such as Internet and other communication systems.
But we may also examine some more specific merits of this work. As is well known, the terminology appearing in different professional registers such as law is not entirely technical. As the authors remark and as researchers such as Swales (1990) or Trimble (1985) have explained, together with the technical or special vocabulary characteristic of each different branch of knowledge, we may also find semi-technical vocabulary as well as words of everyday speech. Each of these different lexical categories is likely to confront the translator with different problems, and the authors are very careful about this, mainly by the explanations provided as well as by the instances that accompany many of the senses of the terms covered. There is, moreover, a very clear reason for the coexistence of these different kinds of vocabulary in the case of legal language, as the matter being referred to by it will involve in some way or another both experts and laypeople.
Precisely, one of the central aspects of the dictionary of legal terms by Professors Alcaraz and Hughes is the connection of the different meanings of words as well as their relationships with the potential contexts where these meanings may be found. At the same time, very often the authors do not limit themselves to providing the reader with the equivalent term in the target language, but set out to explain very carefully the legal background required for its understanding. This is due to the fact that legal language is closely linked to the respective cultural background and society. The fact that this illustrates the concern of the authors with context, in a wider sense, in full agreement with the mainstream of contemporary linguistics, should not be missed. In fact, one of the main problems of this register is that sometimes the terms in one language make reference to realities and situations which have no counterpart in the other, and thus become one of the greatest challenges for the translator. It is for these reasons that readers and researchers using this dictionary will welcome the explanations provided by the authors, well acquainted as they are with both legal systems on account of their experience as sworn translators for more than two decades. Because of their awareness with context and registers, Alcaraz and Hughes usually also indicate the register in which the terms concerned may be likely to appear, and hence, together with their translation, synonyms, antonyms and other related words will also be often supplied.
All this illustrates that a core assumption of the dictionary, also in agreement with the mainstream of contemporary linguistics, is that meaning occurs in context, and that the latter goes beyond linguistic units as appearing in a certain context. At the same time, this will surely make the work of the translator easier, since the meaning conveyed by the term in question, to be rendered by the translator in the target language, will therefore be made more precise. This task will also be facilitated by the inclusion of words related to a definite entry that dictionary users will often find, which will enable them to make a much more accurate choice. In this sense, the author's decision to group words that are related in meaning as well as in form will also help the user to discriminate the subtle shades of meaning often involved. Their advice to contrast the meaning of those words that may offer more difficulty in both sections of the dictionary, so as to gain a more precise understanding of the often subtle connotations of a term in the corresponding language and culture, will also be methodologically helpful. The problems raised by the false friends to be found in this lect are not neglected, either.
As a result, the main objectives pursued by the authors in the design and organization of the content of the work are broadly fulfilled. These are, namely, clarity, coherence and economy. At the same time, the work is remarkable for the attention paid to the different varieties that the use of language in general, and consequently, also legal language, may present. As noted above, the dictionary provides information concerning diatopic or geographic variation or varieties based on registers.
All in all, this dictionary illustrates the dexterity and complexity of a specific language, which is often characterized by its being less subject to change or more conservative. If this might be so if compared to other varieties, this does not exclude the fact that there are many factors, linguistic and otherwise, that make legal language rely upon language use and language users for the purposes of its understanding, construction and interpretation. In synthesis, the broad readership interested in legal translation will undoubtedly receive with interest the new versions of the dictionary, and will appreciate the authors' endeavor to keep their work up-to-date.
Alcaraz, Enrique (1994). El inglés jurídico. Textos y documentos. Barcelona: Ariel.
Alcaraz, Enrique (2000). El inglés profesional y académico. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
Alcaraz, Enrique, Miguel Ángel Campos and Cynthia Giambruno (2000). El inglés jurídico norteamericano. Barcelona: Ariel.
Alcaraz, Enrique and Brian Hughes 2003 (1993). Diccionario de términos jurídicos (inglés-español, español-inglés. Barcelona: Ariel.
Alcaraz, Enrique and Brian Hughes (2001). El español jurídico. Barcelona: Ariel.
Alcaraz, Enrique and Brian Hughes (2002). Legal Translation Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome.
Hutchinson, T. and A.Waters. (1987). English for Specific Purposes: A learning-centred approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jordan, R.R. (1997). English for Academic Purposes. A guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McDonough, J. (1984). ESP in Perspective: A Practical Guide. London: Collins ELT.
Swales, John (1990). Genre analysis. English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Trimble, David. (1985). English for Science and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.