Law is concerned with human behaviour. Although different societies encourage different forms of behaviour all human beings have the capacity to behave in any way prescribed, on the condition we do understand what the law requires us to do. The same applies to legal translation, which in order to be successful in terms of communication must incorporate target language-oriented text-normative equivalents.
Legal translators are usually ‘left to their own devices’ in making their decisions as to the right stylistics and tone to be adopted in translation. These decisions are usually based on comparative analysis of random parallel texts, which may prove to be a time-consuming and tiresome activity.
This ‘introduction’ aims to offer practical information regarding the conventions and norms which are characteristic of legislative texts. It is also designed to aid translators in their work by offering a practical comparative manual of the Polish and English drafting styles and other useful information on legal translation.
A legal norm can be defined to contain a normative statement that produces some legal effects. Any legal norm must convey information in order to fulfil its function of communicating standards of behaviour. Consequently, a norm serves as a scheme of interpretation. The problem of the legal norm has also been discussed in terms of ‘legislative sentences’ which consist of the following elements:
– fact-situation (Tatbestand) which specifies the conditions under which the particular rule operates – in other words, it gives conditions of application of a given norm
– statement of law (Tatfolge) which prescribes the action to be taken and by whom in the event the conditions constituting the fact-situation are met
Fact-situation in English legislative sentences.
The statement of law, which specifies its modality, is always in the main clause (or clauses), whereas the elements pertaining to the fact-situation are more flexible, being formulated as adverbial modifiers in a subordinate ‘if’ or ‘where’ clause. The clauses which express fact-situation can be introduced in English by conjunctions such as ‘if’ (jeżeli, jeśli), ‘on condition that’ (pod warunkiem, że...), ‘provided that’ (pod warunkiem, że..., o ile...), ‘providing that’ (pod warunkiem, że..., o ile...), ‘so / as long as’ (dopóki..., tak długo jak..., pod warunkiem, że...) and ‘unless’ (jeżeli nie..., jeśli nie..., o ile nie..., chyba że...). In the case of English legislative texts, however, legal rules are being formulated mostly as conditional sentences, with ‘if’ – clauses and ‘where’– clauses introducing the fact-situation.
Fact-situation in Polish legislative sentences
The clauses which express fact-situation can be introduced in Polish by conjunctions such as jeżeli, jeśli, w przypadku gdy, w wypadku gdy, pod warunkiem, chyba że, o ile, w razie. See the following examples:
jeżeli = ‘where’ / ‘if’ / ‘embedded fact situation’
Jeżeli wspólnik nie uiścił dopłaty w określonym terminie, obowiązany jest do zapłaty odsetek ustawowych... . (KSH Art. 178 § 2)
Where a shareholder fails to make an additional payment by the specified date, he shall be obliged to pay statutory interest... . (CCC1)
If a shareholder does not pay the additional contribution within a specified deadline, he shall pay statutory interest... . (PCCC)
w wypadku gdy = ‘when’
Przepis powyższy stosuje się odpowiednio w wypadku, gdy umowa została zawarta w imieniu osoby prawnej, która nie istnieje. (KC Art. 39 § 2)
The above provision shall correspondingly apply when a contract has been concluded in the name of a legal person which is non-existent. (PCC)
pod warunkiem = ‘on condition that’
Stosowanie niebezpiecznych substancji i niebezpiecznych preparatów chemicznych jest dopuszczalne pod warunkiem zastosowania środków zapewniających pracownikom ochronę ich zdrowia i życia. (KP Art. 221 § 3)
Hazardous chemical substances and preparations may be used on condition that measures are taken to protect the health and life of employees. (PLC)
chyba że = ‘unless’ / ‘save as’
Jeżeli akcjonariusz nie dokonał wpłaty w terminie określonym w §1, jest on obowiązany do zapłacenia odsetek ustawowych za opóźnienie lub odszkodowania, chyba że statut stanowi inaczej. (KSH Art. 330 § 5)
If the shareholder fails to make the payment on the date specified in §1, the shareholder shall pay statutory interest on delay or damages, unless the statutes provide otherwise. (PCCC)
Save as otherwise provided in the company articles, a shareholder who has failed to make payment by the date referred to in paragraph 1 shall be liable to pay statutory interest for the default, or damages. (PCOCPAC)
The above is an excerpt from: Słownik terminologii prawniczej angielsko-polski polsko-angielski Opracowanie Ewa Myrczek
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