[Corpora-List] Constitution

Bart Defrancq Bart.Defrancq at UGent.be
Wed May 18 13:40:02 CEST 2005

Adam & Jean

>A particular issue is that there are many concepts in EU-speak which do not

>exist outside EU-speak, so, prior to the existence of translations into

>language X, there is no such thing as a correct translation for those

>concepts. Also, consistency and accuracy are important but naturalness

>isn't. (It is scarcely a concept that can be applied to EU-speak - who

>would 'naturally' speak the prose of EU directives?)



Of course and this is true of every SL. The problem is aggravated in the EU
1. by the fact that concepts have to apply uniformly to the territory of
25 nations, which have their own legal terms. Using an existing term
inevitably leads to ambiguity, whereas coining a new term may lead to
2. some terms are obviously used without a neat concept, but this is a
political problem. In Art. 1 of the Constitution, for instance,
reference is made to the "Community method" (which replaces "federal" on
the explicit demand of some B.. members of the Convention). Now, as you
all know 8-), the Community is abolished by the Constitution (by the
way: the Constitution is the first text to grant the EU legal
personality, which means that only after the ratification of the
Constitution, will the EU officially exist... ).
3. And of course: "Une constitution doit être brève... et obscure"
(guess who taught us that).

>A rational Brussels would devote its energies to developing a thorough and

>complete lexicon, in all languages, of EU concepts, and then formalising

>source language texts so that all instances of any of these concepts were

>identified as such. Then texts could be semi-translated, changing

>concept-lexicalisations to the target language while leaving other words in

>the source language. All that would be left for either human or automatic

>translation would be the grammatical glue to hold the concepts together.



It would be unfair to say that such a database does not exist: every
institution had its own database untill one year ago (Eurodicautom,
which is best known was the Commission's). Since then, the different
terminology databases have been merged in a new, central, database
called "IATE". Unfortunately, this is not (yet) publicly accessible.



>Quite possible (if I find infos about this I'll certainly post it on my

>blog!). However, even supposing that each country had a need to massage

>the language of the text, there should be a final control within the

>European institution. After all, it's them and not the language

>Academies, who gave the green light to print it in the Official Journal

>of the Union in December 2004. This seems to confirm that something is

>wrong with the trnalsation and document production procedures and

>quality control within the European Institutions.




You are one 100% right. But the problem with the Constitution is that
it is not a ... Constitution: it is a treaty presented as a
constitution. Which means that in theory Member States have the last
word on it. We should not make too much of a fuss of differences either:
even if versions of EU texts differ, the European Court of Justice is in
charge of providing a uniformly valid interpretation of all the texts.
This may very well be in contradiction with a particular version. There
is a famous mistake in the Italian version of the Treaty of Rome
(1957!!), where in one occasion an "e" (and) has been interpreted as
meaning "o" (or), because the other languages had the equivalent of
"and". The article on the authenticity of all linguistic versions is in
fact subordinate to the article which grants the ECJ the monopoly of
Don't forget that sometimes differences are even required in order to
make a compromise possible. Resolution 242 of the UN Security Council is
one case. The paragraph on European citizenship in the preamble of
Maastricht is another (where have you put that d. Maastricht Treaty you
had to vote upon 12 years ago?)


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