METM15 presentation

Intertextuality of legal documents in institutional texts: when you can't see the words for the royal decrees

Fiona Kelso, Barcelona, Spain

It is something of a tradition in informational texts produced by Spanish and Catalan institutions to include multiple references to legislation, citing Laws, Royal Decrees and sometimes their subsequent modifications and recasting. The result is the creation of a kind of quasi-legal genre that is not always appropriate to the intended readership.

While the need to include references to specific laws in institutional documents that fall within the category of ‘legal texts’ is not a problem (e.g. contract, regulations etc.), when this kind of information is included in items for webpages, course descriptions, reports, and so on, it interferes with the reading process and can obscure the message. This causes difficulties for us as translators in maintaining the function while respecting the content.

The aim of this presentation is to look at some real examples of intertextuality in informational texts produced by Catalan and Spanish universities for different types of reader, analyse the relevance of this information in translation into English and explore alternatives for making it more accessible to the readership. In my case this is the Catalan university community but I am also interested in experiences in other institutions and language combinations. The texts will be taken from university websites in Catalonia and Spain contrasted with parallel texts from British and American universities. I hope to be able to encourage translators to circumnavigate the references that an English language readership might not expect to find and make confident decisions about how or whether to include this information so that the readers can see the wood for the trees.
Fiona Kelso has worked as a translator for over twenty years and since 2007 has been a senior translator in the Language Service of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She is also a lecturer at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at the same university and her classes include Specialised Inverse Translation from Spanish to English.