Publication details [#359]

Cao, Deborah. 1998. The illocutionary act in translating Chinese legislative texts. Babel 44 (3) : 244–253.
Publication type
Article in jnl/bk
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Source language
Target language
Journal DOI


In this paper one of the prominent linguistic features of legal texts, the illocutionary force, is discussed through the examination of legal performatives found in Chinese legislation and their translation into English. This paper identifies some of the characteristics of illocutionary force in Chinese legislation. An analysis of Chinese legislation has identified five types of performative verbs: (a) verbs preceded by bixu/xu (must or shall); (b) verbs preceded by yingdang/yinggai/ying (should or ought to); (c) verbs in the present tense without any modal verbs: zero performative; (d) verbs preceded by keyi (may); and (e) verbs precede by bude (must not, or shall not). The article argues that illocutionary force is a paramount consideration for legal translators and that effective translation of legislative texts depends upon a high level of translational language competence including illocutionary competence.
Source : Abstract in journal