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Panel 14. Crossing and moving boundaries in legal translation and interpreting

In this panel, we aim to bring together researchers who work on legal translation and legal interpreting in order, first, to map state-of-the-art developments and innovation in this expanding area, second, to focus especially upon the adoption of sociological, post-structuralist and knowledge-oriented approaches in the study of legal translation and, thirdly, to initiate the integration and triangulation of data across internal boundaries.

The recent rapid growth of Translation Studies as a discipline resulted in major methodological developments and emergence of strong sub-disciplines, including Legal Translation Studies. Legal Translation Studies has grown exponentially since 1970s and has now become an autonomous interdiscipline, strengthened by real life needs for legal translation and interpreting in the European Union. The growth has brought new methods and angles, including empirical and quantitative studies, such as corpus-based approaches, process research, workplace studies, critical discourse analysis, and sociological studies, resulting in increased methodological reflection and rigour

Especially, the features of our globalized multicultural societies pose unprecedented challenges to practitioners who, in their daily work, often perceive the shortcomings of inherited models and established norms, and who thus often also experience acute dilemmas. In this scenario, we have seen a rise of sociological approaches, post-structuralist and critical approaches applied to legal translation, ethnographic studies and perspectives based on knowledge communication theories. In the light of these approaches emphasizing the role of legal translators as (pro)active agents, legal translation emerges as complex decision-making activity not only with challenges concerning the knowledge to be conveyed, but also with deep socio-political and ethical implications. In the panel, we want to have a special focus upon such approaches, but without limiting us to this type of innovative studies in the field of legal translation. Importantly, the panel wants to counter the tendency of fragmentation following the growth in number of studies and the rise in level of autonomy by presenting different approaches together.

Like legal translation, legal interpreting, in particular court interpreting, has developed separately within the field of Interpreting Studies. Much of the focus has been on norms, ethics, working conditions and training, with a solid grounding in empirical data. What legal translation and legal interpreting have in common is the cross-systemic and cross-cultural mediation of legal discourse; nevertheless, they seem to be researched in two distinct parallel worlds. Interestingly, the internal boundary is more pronounced in research than in professional practice where court translators and interpreters have joint qualifications in a number of countries.

This panel aims at integrating and consolidating the existing and novel data from varied angles across internal boundaries to arrive at methodological, pedagogical and theoretical generalisations about legal translation and interpreting. In particular, we invite contributions that explore the following areas:

  • Innovation in legal translation and interpreting research
    • Methodological advancements
    • Legal, political, social, cognitive and communicative aspects of legal translation and interpreting
      • Legal Translators (LTs) as knowledge communicators and as builders of specialized knowledge.
      • LTs as linguistic and intercultural mediators, shaping (legal) cultures and negotiating professional and cultural identities
      • LTs as social agents performing a socially situated activity.
      • LTs as decision-makers and agents subject to and redefining power relations.
      • LTs as political actors operating in non-neutral, politicized contexts.
    • Corpus-based approaches to legal translation and interpreting
    • Process research into legal translation and interpreting
    • Workplace studies of legal translators and interpreters: the habitus of translators and interpreters
    • Machine translation and postediting in legal translation
  • Triangulation of methods — quantitative, qualitative and mixed approaches
  • The interface between legal translation and interpreting; legal translation and institutional translation; and legal interpreting and community interpreting
  • The common ground in translation and interpreting
  • Interdisciplinarity in legal translation and interpreting studies
  • Integration of data from language-specific enclaves and cross-disciplinary data (translation studies, terminology, legal linguistics and law)
  • A contribution of legal translation and interpreting to translation studies
  • Innovation in legal translator/interpreter training


  • Name(s) of convener(s): Łucja Biel, Vilelmini Sosoni, Jan Engberg, Rosario Martín Ruano & África Vidal
  • Affiliation: University of Warsaw (Poland),University of Corfu (Greece),Aarhus University (Denmark),University of Salamanca (Spain)
  • Email address: l.biel@uw.edu.pl; vilelmini@hotmail.com; je@bcom.au.dk; mrmr@usal.es; africa@usal.es