Examining institutional translation through a legal lens: A comparative analysis of multilingual text production at international organizations

Fernando Prieto Ramos and Diego Guzmán

Abstract

Studies of institutional translation have traditionally focused on European Union (EU) institutions and legislative genres. In order to develop a more comprehensive characterization of translation at international organizations beyond EU supranational law, this study compares a full mapping of multilingual text production at EU institutions to that of two representative intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), over three years (2005, 2010, and 2015) in three common official languages (English, French, and Spanish). The corpus-driven quantitative analysis and categorization of all texts from a legal-functional perspective corroborate the interconnection of a wide range of textual genres that perform, support, or derive from central law-making, monitoring, and adjudicative functions, or fulfill other administrative purposes. The findings also highlight interinstitutional variation that reflects the features of each legal order, in particular the prominence of hard law-making at the EU (with a high proportion of drafts and input documents) as opposed to larger translation volumes in monitoring procedures at the UN and the WTO. This mapping is considered instrumental to further analyze legal and other specialized translation practices in international institutional settings, and ultimately to inform translator training and translation quality management.

Keywords
Publication history
Table of contents

1.Introduction

Approaches to institutional translation have become increasingly prominent and fruitful within Legal Translation Studies, in particular through the application of corpus methods (e.g., Biel 2018Biel, Łucja 2018 “Corpora in Institutional Legal Translation: Small Steps and the Big Picture.” In Institutional Translation for International Governance: Enhancing Quality in Multilingual Legal Communication, edited by Fernando Prieto Ramos, 25–36. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar; Pontrandolfo 2019Pontrandolfo, Gianluca 2019 “Corpus Methods in Legal Translation Studies.” In Research Methods in Legal Translation and Interpreting: Crossing Methodological Boundaries, edited by Łucja Biel, Jan Engberg, M. Rosario Martín Ruano, and Vilelmini Sosoni, 13–28. Abingdon: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar; Prieto Ramos 2019b 2019b “The Use of Corpora in Legal and Institutional Translation Studies.” In Corpus-Based Research in Legal and Institutional Translation, edited by Fernando Prieto Ramos, special issue of Translation Spaces 8 (1): 1–11. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar). As is the case for studies of legal translation more broadly, these corpus-based or corpus-driven studies of institutional translation have traditionally concentrated on legislative genres and are only gradually devoting increased attention to other genres, such as judgments (e.g., McAuliffe and Trklja’s [2018]McAuliffe, Karen, and Aleksandar Trklja 2018 “Superdiversity and the Relationship between Law, Language and Translation in a Supranational Legal Order.” In The Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity, edited by Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge, 426–441. Abingdon: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar and Trklja and McAuliffe’s [2018]Trklja, Aleksandar, and Karen McAuliffe 2018 “The European Union Case Law Corpus (EUCLCORP) – a Multilingual Parallel and Comparative Corpus of EU Court Judgments.” In Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Corpus-Based Research in the Humanities: CRH-2, vol. 1, edited by Andrew U. Frank, Christine Ivanovic, Francesco Mambrini, Marco Passarotti, and Caroline Sporleder, 217–226. Vienna: Gerastree Proceedings.Google Scholar work on the project “Law and Language at the European Court of Justice” and its EUCLCORP corpus) and parliamentary speeches (e.g., Bernardini, Ferraresi, and Miličević’s [2016]Bernardini, Silvia, Adriano Ferraresi, and Maja Miličević 2016 “From EPIC to EPTIC: Exploring Simplification in Interpreting and Translation from an Intermodal Perspective.” Target 28 (1): 61–86. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar and Calzada-Pérez’s [2018]Calzada-Pérez, María 2018 “Researching the European Parliament with Corpus-Assisted Discourse Studies: From the Micro- and Macro-Levels of Text to the Macro-Context.” In Specialised Translation in Spain: Institutional Dimensions, edited by José Santaemilia-Ruiz and Sergio Marunda-Bataller, special issue of Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada/Spanish Journal of Applied Linguistics 30 (2): 465–490. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar analysis of the interconnected ECPC, EPIC, and EPTIC corpora). The predominant focus on EU institutional settings has been highlighted by the recent proliferation of studies that compare features of EU translated genres with their closest corresponding national legal genres (e.g., Mori’s [2018]Mori, Laura 2018 “Introduction: The Eurolect Observatory Project.” In Observing Eurolects: Corpus Analysis of Linguistic Variation in EU Law, edited by Laura Mori, 1–26. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar paper about the Eurolect Observatory project on EU legislation in various languages; Biel, Koźbiał, and Wasilewska’s [2019]Biel, Łucja, Dariusz Koźbiał, and Katarzyna Wasilewska 2019 “The Formulaicity of Translations across EU Institutional Genres: A Corpus-Driven Analysis of Lexical Bundles in Translated and Non-Translated Language.” In Corpus-Based Research in Legal and Institutional Translation, edited by Fernando Prieto Ramos, special issue of Translation Spaces 8 (1): 67–92. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar work on the robust expansion of the Polish strand of the project; and Pontrandolfo’s [2020] 2020 “National and EU judicial phraseology under the magnifying glass: A corpus-assisted discourse study.” Perspectives. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar investigation of phraseological patterns in EU and Spanish national judgments).

In contrast, despite the improved accessibility of institutional corpora, translation at IGOs remains underresearched. Initiatives such as the creation of the UN Parallel Corpus (Ziemski, Junczys-Dowmunt, and Pouliquen 2016Ziemski, Michał, Marcin Junczys-Dowmunt, and Bruno Pouliquen 2016 “The United Nations Parallel Corpus v1.0.” In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC ’16), edited by Nicoletta Calzolari, Khalid Choukri, Thierry Declerck, Sara Goggi, Marko Grobelnik, Bente Maegaard, Joseph Mariani, Hélène Mazo, Asunción Moreno, Jan Odijk, and Stelios Piperidis. Portorož: European Language Resources Association (ELRA).Google Scholar), largely driven by the development of machine translation tools, may facilitate research in the field. Likewise, the compilation of a corpus of preferential trade agreements (notified by Member States of the WTO) for the analysis of treaty variations (Alschner, Seiermann, and Skougarevskiy 2017Alschner, Wolfgang, Julia Seiermann, and Dmitriy Skougarevskiy 2017 “Text-as-Data Analysis of Preferential Trade Agreements: Mapping the PTA Landscape.” UNCTAD Research Paper No. 5, UNCTAD/SER.RP/2017/5. Geneva: UNCTAD. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar), albeit not oriented to translation research, illustrates the common interest in mapping institutional texts with a view to exploring features of international law and language.

Against this backdrop, it is difficult to generalize assertions on translation at international organizations beyond the evidence obtained for specific genres, institutions, or aspects. A more comprehensive description of this field of translation practice requires, above all, a full mapping of institutional text production as the most tangible expression of global governance (e.g., Davies and Woodward 2014Davies, Michael, and Richard Woodward 2014International Organizations: A Companion. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar; Koskinen 2014Koskinen, Kaisa 2014 “Institutional Translation: The Art of Government by Translation.” Perspectives 22 (4): 479–492. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar; Prieto Ramos 2014Prieto Ramos, Fernando 2014 “International and Supranational Law in Translation: From Multilingual Lawmaking to Adjudication.” The Translator 20 (3): 313–331. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar). This is precisely the first goal of the LETRINT project:11.The project “Legal Translation in International Institutional Settings: Scope, Strategies and Quality Markers” is led by the first author and supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation through a Consolidator Grant (157797). To define the scope of legal translation within the confines of institutional translation in three representative settings – namely the four main EU institutions (the Commission [EC], the Parliament [EP], the Council [EUCO], and the Court of Justice [CJEU]), the UN and its International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the WTO – by situating all text production within a legal-functional perspective. The quantitative results of this mapping are presented in this article. After briefly outlining the corpus-driven methodological approach (Section 2), our findings shed light on the central question of what constitutes institutional translation in the three settings examined (Section 3), and provide an overview of text production and the nature of translated texts (legal functions, document status, and textual genres).

2.Data and methodology

In order to survey translation work in the three selected settings, several sets of monolingual comparable corpora were first compiled from institutional repositories. These included all publicly accessible texts22.Texts for internal use but which are not publicly accessible, such as certain working documents used in monitoring or judicial procedures, are seldom translated into all official languages and are not considered in the LETRINT project. According to institutional informants, the volume of translation generated by these texts is generally negligible. in the three common languages of the relevant institutions (English, French, and Spanish, with the exception of the latter at the ICJ) for three specific years spanning a decade (2005, 2010, and 2015). The repositories include: EUR-Lex, the CJEU’s website, the EUCO Document Register, the EP Public Register of Documents, the Register of Commission Documents, WTO Documents Online, and the UN’s Official Document System (ODS) (for more details on the corpus’s design and processing, see Prieto Ramos, Cerutti, and Guzmán [2019]Prieto Ramos, Fernando, Giorgina Cerutti, and Diego Guzmán 2019 “Building Representative Multi-Genre Corpora for Legal and Institutional Translation Research: The LETRINT Approach to Text Categorization and Stratified Sampling.” In Corpus-Based Research in Legal and Institutional Translation, edited by Fernando Prieto Ramos, special issue of Translation Spaces 8 (1): 93–116. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar). The resulting corpus, called LINST, comprises more than 1.7 billion tokens and provides a comprehensive overview of the total text production and frequency of use of each official language in each setting (see Section 3.1). In a sequential approach to the corpus design, the LINST corpus was then refined to build the LETRINT 0 corpus by selecting all texts originally drafted in English and translated into French and Spanish. The only exceptions to this translation directionality in the corpus are texts from the CJEU (where French is the procedural language, and thus the main source language) and the ICJ (from which only English–French translations were considered). The figures for the LETRINT 0 corpus, which totals approximately 1.18 billion tokens, were double-checked against the translation statistics provided by the various institutions from which the texts were compiled, with a view to validating the overall coherence of the data.

Several validators manually verified more than 113 000 multilingual documents that complied with the compilation criteria, and added metadata not available in the LINST corpus, such as institutional document symbol (used by each institution to easily identify each text) and status (‘draft’, ‘first final version’, ‘corrigendum’ and ‘revision’) (see Section 3.3). The most challenging and time-consuming process was the categorization of all texts into genres according to the three main legal functions identified through a prior contextualization of multilingual texts in their legal procedural framework: Law- and policy-making, monitoring, and adjudication (Prieto Ramos 2014Prieto Ramos, Fernando 2014 “International and Supranational Law in Translation: From Multilingual Lawmaking to Adjudication.” The Translator 20 (3): 313–331. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar, 2017 2017 “Global Law as Translated Text: Mapping Institutional Legal Translation.” Tilburg Law Review 22 (1–2): 185–214. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar, 2019a 2019a “Implications of Text Categorisation for Corpus-Based Legal Translation Research: The Case of International Institutional Settings.” In Research Methods in Legal Translation and Interpreting: Crossing Methodological Boundaries, edited by Łucja Biel, Jan Engberg, M. Rosario Martín Ruano, and Vilelmini Sosoni, 29–47. Abingdon: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar). The cyclical process of categorization, in which the internal structure of textual categories was continuously refined as the corpus analysis provided more insights, with the texts being classified accordingly, was essential to (1) define subcategories within each main legal functional category, (2) elicit the instrumental role of a fourth category of administrative or internal management functions that support the other main legal functions, and (3) establish a distinction between key and secondary texts with respect to these legal functions (see the categorization matrix in Table 1, as well as Sections 3.2 and 3.4). Whereas key genres typically perform such functions (e.g., treaties or regulations within law-making), secondary genres contribute to the production of key genres or derive from these (e.g., working papers, minutes, or press releases).

Table 1.LETRINT 0’s text categorization matrix (adapted from Prieto Ramos 2019a 2019a “Implications of Text Categorisation for Corpus-Based Legal Translation Research: The Case of International Institutional Settings.” In Research Methods in Legal Translation and Interpreting: Crossing Methodological Boundaries, edited by Łucja Biel, Jan Engberg, M. Rosario Martín Ruano, and Vilelmini Sosoni, 29–47. Abingdon: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar, 40)
Main functions Genres
1. Law- and policy-making 1.1 Hard law
  1. Key

  2. Secondary

1.2 Soft law and other policy formulation
2. Monitoring 2.1 Mandatory compliance monitoring
2.2 Pre-accession monitoring
2.3 Other monitoring and implementation matters
3. Adjudication
4. Administrative functions 4.1 Human resources, finance and procurement
4.2 Other coordination and internal matters

3.Findings

3.1Overview of text production

The first full textual mapping that gave rise to the LINST corpus shows that, with 379 980 texts, the EU setting is by far the most productive compared to the 80 806 texts compiled from the UN (and the ICJ) and 52 854 texts from the WTO. The prominence of the EU’s legislative activity and the significant number of draft and preparatory documents used to this end certainly contribute to the high volume of the EU subcorpus, although the work of the CJEU also accounts for a large proportion of the volume (see Section 3.2). Unlike the EU institutions, the UN and the WTO lack the supranational authority to adopt directly applicable legal acts. As IGOs, their work is more focused on promoting and monitoring Member States’ compliance with international agreements adopted under their auspices or other non-binding initiatives and instruments (see Section 3.4).

Since the LINST dataset includes non-translated texts, it also offers an indication of the standing of the three selected languages in terms of their frequency of use for text production, and more particularly, for procedural purposes that do not require the translation of documents into all the official languages. In other words, the first textual mapping provides a snapshot of language regimes as applied in the three settings of the study, and confirms the predominant use of English as a lingua franca in international organizations. Overall, texts compiled in English (either as monolingual documents or as versions of multilingual documents) account for 43.40% of the total number of texts, whereas French accounts for 29.66% and Spanish for 26.94%. These figures also imply that French and Spanish are predominantly target languages in translation (except in the CJEU and the ICJ). Approximately 5% of UN documents in French and 3% in Spanish in the LINST subcorpora are source texts. In the WTO subcorpus, 13.32% of documents were originally drafted in Spanish, whereas less than 2% have French as the original language.

However, the most marked difference between languages is found for the EU institutions,33.For the sake of brevity, unless otherwise specified, ‘the EU’ will hereinafter refer to the EU institutions selected for the project. particularly at the EUCO and the EP. The upward trend in the use of English is most pronounced for texts compiled from the EP Public Register, where the number of documents in English grew from 18 836 in 2005 to 43 215 in 2015, compared to 15 257 and 12 169, respectively, in French. This shows a trend in terms of language preference for committee work and internal communication at the EP after the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements. In the case of the EUCO, according to the Language Service of its General Secretariat, up to 70% of the total pages produced for the EUCO are not translated “since, for practical purposes, most of the Working Parties work on the basis of a text drafted in a single language” (General Secretariat of the Council of the EU 2012General Secretariat of the Council of the EU 2012The Language Service of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union – Making Multilingualism Work. Brussels: European Union.Google Scholar, 8). This language tends to be English, as also reflected in the LINST data from the EUCO Public Register, where 10 576 of the documents were produced in English in 2005 and 12 151 in 2015, while the number of documents in French decreased from 6379 to 4911 in the same period.

Figure 1.Distribution of the LINST and LETRINT 0 corpora components and proportion of monolingual documents excluded from LETRINT 0
Figure 1.

As shown in Figure 1, the selection of translated texts for the LETRINT 0 corpus entailed discarding a much higher proportion of texts available only in English in the EU institutions (more than 50% compared to roughly 40% at the UN and 25% at the WTO). It is also in this context that the most remarkable difference is found between English and the second most used language, French, in terms of the number of documents discarded. In the case of the UN, the far greater volume of French texts discarded compared to Spanish reflects the distinctive status of French, together with English, as a working language of the organization and an official language of the ICJ. In contrast, the difference in the number of documents in these two languages in the WTO is negligible, and very limited with regard to English, which bears out the more systematic application of the WTO trilingual regime. This also points to a clear pattern in which the coexistence of more official languages leads to more instances of restricted multilingualism in practice and the more frequent use of English as a lingua franca (for a more detailed analysis of language regimes and hierarchies at these institutions, see Prieto Ramos [2020b] 2020b “Translation at International Organizations: The Legal and Linguistic Hierarchies of Multilingualism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Translation and Social Practices, edited by Meng Ji and Sara Laviosa, 455–477. New York: Oxford University Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar).

3.2Distribution of text production per legal function

The results of the categorization of translated texts corroborate the legal dimension of institutional translation at international organizations, with significant variation between settings. Overall, 90.37% of the LETRINT 0 corpus (based on total number of words) falls within the three main legal functional categories presented in Section 2, while 9.63% falls within the fourth category, administrative functions. Of the three main categories, documents translated as part of law- and policy-making procedures account for 50.16% of the dataset, followed by monitoring (37.37%) and adjudication (12.48%).

Interestingly, the distribution of key and secondary texts varies according to the legal function. The highest proportion of secondary texts is found in hard law-making, with an almost four times greater text volume (mostly input documents) than that of the legal instruments themselves. This is in line with the nature of the preparatory work required and made publicly available in law-making procedures. The distribution of key and secondary texts is similar in the case of soft law and other policy formulation at the UN (where input is also significant in the preparation of resolutions in particular) and the WTO (which is characterized by time-consuming consensus-building processes in the negotiation of multilateral agreements). The reverse trend is found in monitoring procedures, where there is a higher volume of performative key documents than preparatory or derived texts. This trend is more marked in the case of adjudicative procedures, where the group of accessible translated genres fulfilling secondary functions, mainly composed of instrumental or derived texts such as minutes, annual reports or press releases, represents a very small proportion compared to the volume of key genres (see Section 3.4).

Table 2.LETRINT 0 corpus distribution per legal category and organization (word counts of final versions of source texts in million words, with percentage of the total corpus indicated in brackets)
Main function Genre EU UN WTO Overall
1.1 Hard law Key  19.59
(11.92)
  0.04
(0.05)
  0.1
(0.28)
 19.73
(6.96)
Secondary  75.23
(45.76)
  0.48
(0.57)
  1.91
(5.37)
 77.62
(27.38)
1.2 Soft law and other policy formulation Key  14.36
(8.73)
  1.82
(2.18)
  0.03
(0.08)
 16.21
(5.72)
Secondary   6.86
(4.17)
  7.53
(9.02)
  0.52
(1.46)
 14.91
(5.26)
2.1 Mandatory compliance monitoring Key   4.50
(2.74)
 17.15
(20.54)
 13.95
(39.24)
35.6
(12.56)
Secondary   1.23
(0.75)
  5.67
(6.79)
  1.72
(4.84)
  8.62
(3.04)
2.2 Pre-accession monitoring Key   0.08
(0.05)
N/A   1.78
(5.01)
  1.86
(0.66)
Secondary   0.10
(0.06)
N/A   0.72
(2.03)
  0.82
(0.29)
2.3 Other monitoring and implementation matters Key  10.21
(6.21)
 27.75
(33.24)
  3.94
(11.08)
41.9
(14.78)
Secondary   5.16
(3.14)
  0.64
(0.77)
  1.11
(3.12)
  6.91
(2.44)
3. Adjudication Key  20.78
(12.64)
  1.51
(1.81)
  7.81
(21.97)
30.1
(10.62)
Secondary   0.39
(0.24)
  0.72
(0.86)
  0.75
(2.11)
  1.86
(0.66)
4. Administrative functions 1   4.89
(2.97)
 11.21
(13.43)
  0.44
(1.24)
 16.54
(5.84)
2   1.03
(0.63)
  8.96
(10.73)
  0.77
(2.17)
 10.76
(3.80)
Total 164.41  83.48  35.55 283.44

A closer comparison of the subcorpora (volume of translated texts based on the word count of final versions of source texts)44.Drafts, corrigenda, and revisions are excluded from this comparison in order to focus on translation volumes of new texts (see Section 3.3). highlights the distinctive features of each institutional legal setting (see Figure 2). The main difference between them is the prominence of law-making at the EU and of monitoring procedures at the IGOs. As a supranational legal order in its own right, the EU regulates a wide array of areas that affect the lives of its more than 500 million citizens. A total of 57.67% of the translation volume, including a significant proportion of secondary texts (see Table 2), is produced in preparation for binding legal acts by the EC, the EUCO, and the EP in the so-called ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009). Non-binding law- and policy-making accounts for a more modest 12.91% of the translation volume. This figure is similar to that obtained for this subcategory at the UN (11.20%) as the main one within law-making in that setting, compared to only 0.63% for binding instruments. This reflects the UN’s more common reliance on instruments of limited enforceability, especially resolutions (see Section 3.4). At the WTO, the translation of binding instruments, including schedules of trade commitments, accounts for 5.68% of the subcorpus, as opposed to 1.54% for soft law and policy formulation. In both subcategories, the bulk of translation volumes is composed of preparatory texts issued in the framework of trade negotiations.

Figure 2.LETRINT 0 corpus distribution per setting and legal category (proportions based on word counts of source text final versions in million words, including key and secondary documents)
Figure 2.

At the UN and the WTO, translation volumes for monitoring mechanisms stand out with 61.34% and 65.28% of the corresponding subcorpora, respectively, of which 27.34% and 44.07% originate in the surveillance of Member States’ mandatory compliance with their international commitments. At the UN, a great proportion of these texts are produced by or for human rights treaty bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee, while at the WTO they are most often part of periodic Trade Policy Review (TPR) procedures. These figures are much higher compared to the 12.95% in the case of EU monitoring functions, including 3.49% in connection with mandatory compliance. This is certainly due to the fact that the role of the EC in monitoring the implementation of EU law, as the ‘Guardian of the Treaties’, is conducted through mechanisms that do not always involve public access to documents in all official languages, but rather bilateral contacts with Member States that may lead to infringement procedures55.See https://​ec​.europa​.eu​/info​/law​/law​-making​-process​/applying​-eu​-law​/infringement​-procedure​_en. and, eventually, referrals to the CJEU. Other monitoring and implementation matters account for 9.35% of translation volume at the EU, compared to 14.20% at the WTO and 34.01% at the UN, where this share goes hand-in-hand with the important role of soft law in the same organization.

As regards pre-accession monitoring (Subcategory 2.2), its absence from translation data in the UN subcorpus has a twofold explanation. On the one hand, the two latest accessions to this organization (Montenegro and South Sudan) took place in years that are not covered by the LETRINT corpus (2006 and 2011, respectively). On the other hand, following the recommendation of the Security Council, the General Assembly grants UN membership to States without the need for extensive negotiations, as the UN “is open to all peace-loving States that accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations” (United Nations 1945United Nations 1945Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice. San Francisco: United Nations.Google Scholar, art. 4). This means that accession procedures do not generate significant translation volumes as in the case of the EU and the WTO, where these procedures often take several years. At the EU, where pre-accession monitoring accounted for 0.11% of the relevant subcorpus, candidate States must comply with EU standards and rules, and secure the consent of their citizens, EU institutions, and other Member States.66.See https://​ec​.europa​.eu​/neighbourhood​-enlargement​/policy​/conditions​-membership​_en. Several countries were negotiating their accession during the 2005–2015 period. Among them, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, and Croatia in 2013. Similarly, accession to the WTO involves the establishment of a working party through which negotiations lead “to the drafting of an accession package (‘terms of accession/entry’)”.77.See https://​www​.wto​.org​/english​/thewto​_e​/acc​_e​/acc​_status​_e​.htm. These negotiations generate a considerable amount of translation in this organization, which accounts for 7.02% of the WTO subcorpus.

For their part, the volume of adjudication texts varies considerably between institutions, and reflects the prominence of this function and the dynamism of the relevant bodies in each setting. The most significant proportion is found at the WTO (24.09%), as a result of its successful dispute settlement system (e.g., McRae 2010McRae, Donald 2010 “The WTO Appellate Body: A Model for an ICSID Appeals Facility?Journal of International Dispute Settlement 1 (2): 371–387. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar); although it is the CJEU that deals with the highest number of cases and produces the largest volume of translation in absolute terms. While the overall proportion of adjudicative texts at the EU is 12.88%, key texts of this functional category (totalling 20.78 million words) actually outnumber the translation volume of key texts in all other subcategories in the LETRINT 0 corpus, and in the case of the second largest subcategory of key texts, hard law (totalling 19.59 million words), this is by more than one million words. At the other extreme, the ICJ production, with a low number of cases, accounts for just 2.66% of translation volume in the UN setting. In this organization, it is administrative functions rather than adjudication that accounts for the second largest proportion of translated texts (24.16% of the subcorpus), much more than in the EU institutions (3.60%) and the WTO (3.41%). This may be due not only to the attention devoted to budgets and other internal matters through bodies such as the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, but also to the high number of miscellaneous follow-up questions derived from monitoring over the years (such as logistics, appointments, and other coordination matters).

3.3Document status

In order to complete the picture sketched in Sections 3.1 and 3.2, which focuses on the translation volume of new texts (i.e., the final versions of texts only), it is worth examining the volume of translated texts with other statuses in the production workflow. This may help to better understand multilingual text production practices in each setting. Four main statuses were identified as part of the metatada: ‘draft’, ‘first final version’, ‘corrigendum’, and ‘revision’. Drafts are used to produce the first final versions of documents, whereas corrigenda and revisions draw on the first final versions of documents to introduce corrections or to update contents, respectively. Overall, first final versions account for 78.23% of the LETRINT 0 corpus (based on source text word count), followed by drafts (18.2%), revisions (3.41%), and corrigenda (0.16%).

Table 3.LETRINT 0 corpus volumes per setting and document status (source text word counts, with percentage of the total corpus indicated in brackets)
Status EU UN WTO
Revisions   5 327 108
   (2.32)
 1 146 200
   (1.31)
 5 881 662
   (13.23)
Corrigenda     457 472
   (0.20)
    64 722
   (0.07)
    63 558
   (0.14)
Drafts  59 578 277
   (25.93)
 3 420 387
   (3.88)
 2 958 685
   (6.65)
First final versions 164 412 750
   (71.55)
83 486 801
   (94.74)
35 564 342
   (79.98)
Total 229 775 607 88 118 110 44 468 247
Figure 3.LETRINT 0 corpus distribution per setting and document status (proportions based on source text word counts)
Figure 3.

The most notable differences between settings (see Figure 3 and Table 3) are the high volume of publicly accessible drafts at the EU (25.93% versus 6.65% at the WTO), the large proportion of revisions at the WTO (13.23% versus 2.32% at the EU) and the comparatively low figures for these statuses at the UN, where drafts (3.88%), revisions (1.31%), and corrigenda (0.07%) represent less than 6% of the subcorpus. In contrast, first final versions account for just less than 80% at both the EU (71.55%) and the WTO (79.98%), compared to 94.74% at the UN. Although the share of corrigenda is very limited in the subcorpora, the proportion for the UN (64 722 words or 0.07%) is particularly low when compared with the corresponding proportion at the WTO (0.14%) and the higher figures at the EU (457 472 words or 0.2%). This points to differences in the frequency of corrigenda at the observed institutions (see Bobek 2009Bobek, Michal 2009 “Corrigenda in the Official Journal of the European Union: Community Law as Quicksand.” European Law Review 34: 950–962.Google Scholar; Prieto Ramos 2020a 2020a “Facing Translation Errors at International Organizations: What Corrigenda Reveal about Correction Processes and their Implications for Translation Quality.” Comparative Legilinguistics 41 (1): 97–133. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar).

An examination of document status per legal category provides more nuance on institutional singularities (see Figures 4 to 6). In absolute terms, the amount of publicly accessible drafts in the EU’s deliberative procedures for law-making (with a combined total of 47 million words and 28.32% of hard and soft law-making texts) is, by far, the most significant of all the subcorpora (see Figure 4), although, in relative terms, drafts are even more prominent in EU accession negotiations (62.86% of Subcategory 2.2 in Figure 4). On the contrary, as in the other settings, drafts are rarely accessible in the case of adjudication procedures (Subcategory 3), and documents other than final versions are the exception for this functional category. These trends align with the needs and dynamics of each function, and with the use and visibility of secondary texts in the same procedures (see Section 3.1).

Figure 4.EU subcorpus distribution per legal category and document status (source text word counts)
Figure 4.

In the UN subcorpus (see Figure 5), drafts are also more accessible in law-making procedures (23.42% and 10.52% of the word counts of Subcategories 1.1 and 1.2, respectively) than in other legal categories. Interestingly, draft papers in the framework of negotiations on binding instruments (65.48% of Subcategory 1.1 drafts) and resolutions (73.18% of Subcategory 1.2 drafts) are the most frequent among law-making textual genres (see also Section 3.4).

Figure 5.UN subcorpus distribution per legal category and document status (source text word counts)
Figure 5.
Figure 6.WTO subcorpus distribution per legal category and document status (source text word counts)
Figure 6.

In the WTO subcorpus (Figure 6), similar proportions are found in law-making (with a combined percentage of 8.53%), but it is pre-accession monitoring (Subcategory 2.2) that registers the largest proportion of drafts (43.16%). As mentioned above, nonetheless, the main peculiarity of the WTO’s text production is the high amount of revisions. Unlike the EU and the UN, where this status rarely exceeds 3% of word counts in any single legal category, revisions reach an overall proportion of 8.13% at the WTO, and 22.54% in the case of mandatory compliance monitoring (Subcategory 2.1), essentially because of the frequent recourse to revisions of TPR Reports by the WTO Secretariat.

3.4Textual genres

As mentioned in Section 2, all texts were examined to establish their genres and situate them with regard to the main functional categories, which involved checking not only document titles, series, and symbols, but also (especially in cases of doubt) conventions such as macrostructure and phraseology associated with specific functions. Key performative genres such as legal acts or judgments were generally easy to identify, while other more hybrid or multifunctional texts, particularly certain types of reports and communications, required further scrutiny for their categorization. From a legal perspective, law-making genres, despite representing a more limited volume of translation at the two IGOs, are systematically found at the top of each legal order and condition other key genres related to the application of legal instruments (e.g., in national reporting, surveillance by institutional bodies, or judicial decision-making). Overall, the interconnection of all key and secondary texts is reflected in their intertextuality as a central feature of “systems of genres” or “interrelated genres that interact with each other in specific settings” (Bazerman 1994Bazerman, Charles 1994 “Systems of Genres and the Enactment of Social Intentions.” In Genre and the New Rhetoric, edited by Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway, 79–101. London: Routledge.Google Scholar, 97). Within these systems, some procedures generate “bundles or chains of genres” that are very closely linked to each other (Prieto Ramos 2019a 2019a “Implications of Text Categorisation for Corpus-Based Legal Translation Research: The Case of International Institutional Settings.” In Research Methods in Legal Translation and Interpreting: Crossing Methodological Boundaries, edited by Łucja Biel, Jan Engberg, M. Rosario Martín Ruano, and Vilelmini Sosoni, 29–47. Abingdon: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar, 42). The main ones found in the LETRINT 0 corpus were those produced to articulate the EU’s legislative procedure and its CJEU’s proceedings, the UN’s human rights treaty body monitoring mechanisms, and the WTO’s TPRs and dispute settlement.

Reports were the most common macrogenre across institutions and also presented the widest variety of functions and subtypes, both as a key genre in monitoring procedures (and also dispute settlement in the case of the WTO)88.In this institution, the terminology coined for the dispute settlement system avoids the connotations of judicial terminology commonly used by adjudicative bodies in national and international jurisdictions (e.g., ‘panel’ is used instead of ‘court’, and ‘report’ instead of ‘judgment’). and as an essential preparatory genre in most legal categories and for internal management. When a particular type of report adhered to conventions determined by specific purposes and authorship (e.g., International Law Commission reports, national reports to UN human rights treaty bodies, WTO Secretariat reports in TPRs, and Appelate Body reports), the subtype (or subgenre) was isolated as such, whereas other miscellaneous groups of reports were classified under the general genre denomination in the relevant legal subcategory. Minutes (with the UN variant of summary records) are also functionally heterogenous in terms of key and secondary functions across institutions, albeit homogeneous in their denomination. Likewise, press releases are found in all the settings but within secondary derived genres in several categories, depending on the main function reported as subject matter, especially at the EU institutions. Notes (and letters in the case of the UN) are also frequently used as instrumental texts within several functional categories.

Tables 1 to 3 in the Appendix list the five largest volumes of translation per setting, legal subcategory, and genre. Within the text production of EU institutions (Appendix Table 1), judgments (11.56 million words translated by the CJEU’s lawyer-linguists) are the most voluminous key genre, followed by regulations (10.16 million words, most often translated at the EC), EP resolutions (10.07 million words), opinions of the Advocate-General (6.57 million words), and decisions within binding law-making (5.66 million words). However, it is reports as input for law-making that constitute the largest volume (almost 40 million words in binding law-making and almost 5 million words in soft law-making and other policy formulation) if secondary functions are considered. Similarly, the amount of minutes translated as instrumental texts in law-making (7.55 million words) stands out in the list of secondary genres and is greater than the volume of minutes translated as a key genre in monitoring procedures (3.25 million words).

At the UN (Appendix Table 2), reports of several subtypes are also the predominant genre. These subtypes include follow-up reports of the Secretary-General (9 million words), reports of UN bodies (8.96 million words) on the implementation of resolutions and UN policies, and reports issued in the framework of human rights treaty compliance monitoring, with the largest volumes being registered by States parties’ reports (7.45 million words) and special rapporteur reports (2.05 million words). Certain features of the latter as well as treaty body concluding observations – and reports in the case of the Working Party on the Universal Periodic Review, albeit not listed among the largest text volumes – partly resemble adjudicative decisions, such as WTO dispute settlement reports. However, despite their quasi-judicial role with regard to specific countries or situations, the enforceability of such UN recommendations is very limited. This also applies to resolutions as the main genre within UN law-making, with more than 1.5 million words. Nonetheless, summary records within secondary functions more than double that amount and constitute the largest genre contributing to law-making. As regards adjudication, the translation volume generated by the ICJ is the most modest of the three adjudicative bodies considered in the study, with judges’ separate or dissenting opinions accounting for more text than judgments.99.In contrast to judges’ opinions, whose translations are systematically indicated as such, ICJ judgments are theoretically co-drafted. In contrast, the UN translation volumes of genres classified under administrative functions, particularly budgets (4.08 million words), are unrivalled within this category across all the settings.

Finally, the most significant volumes of text at the WTO (Appendix Table 3) also reflect the most salient functions in this organization. Notifications (predominantly of a technical nature) to several monitoring bodies have the highest volume (with more than 6 million words), closely followed by dispute settlement panel reports (5.92 million words), and (with comparably lower volumes) Secretariat’s reports on TPRs (3.35 million words) and minutes as a key genre in other monitoring work by several committees (3.12 million words). The same genre also fulfills a supporting function in practically all other legal subcategories, together with reports.

4.Concluding remarks

The full mapping of text production at the EU, the UN, and the WTO conducted as part of the LETRINT project provides evidence of the components of institutional translation at international organizations. It fills a gap in a research field that is increasingly productive but fragmented in the case of studies on EU translation and underdeveloped with regard to the analysis of other international institutional settings. The results of the categorization and quantification of translated documents are also the foundation of an evidence-based approach to describing the features of translation in these settings and, hence, bringing more cohesion and a broader vision to the field.

Our findings attest to the vast scope and diversity of interrelated genres that perform, contribute to, or derive from institutional missions based on the legal core of global governance. Interinstitutional variation reflects peculiarities of each legal order, in particular the unique character of EU supranational law, which accounts for the greatest volume of translation of all legal functional categories in any of the three settings. The IGOs examined, for their part, devote more attention to monitoring procedures (and internal administrative functions at the UN and dispute settlement at the WTO), but are equally conditioned by legal instruments as the central normative expression of their goals and policies. The mapping also reveals other features of the EU subcorpora that derive from the nature of EU law-making and the variations of EU multilingualism in practice: A large amount of secondary preparatory texts, the highest proportion of drafts, and the most marked prominence of English as a lingua franca for internal communication where translation into all official languages is not mandatory.

The dissection of translation volumes per legal function, as well as per document status and genre, offers a comprehensive overview of the text types most commonly translated and how key legal instruments are forged by drawing on a myriad of other input documents. Reports stand out as the most frequent macrogenre, with several subtypes and functions across institutions. Overall, our results corroborate that the traditional focus on legislative genres in studies of legal and institutional translation, which remains a must with regard to EU legislative acts, should become more nuanced, particularly in the case of IGOs. The study also highlights the relevance of other legal genres, such as judgments or dispute settlement reports, while other key genres may be categorized as legal, quasi-legal, or administrative depending on how broadly the notion of ‘legal’ is defined, especially when considering soft law-making and other policy formulation and implementation follow-up. Only by surveying their main and subsidiary functions can further characterization and taxonomy-building endeavours be emipirically undertaken. The translation-oriented description of the conventions and connections of these genres per setting and specific purpose is part of the ongoing efforts of the LETRINT project to shed more light on the nature of institutional translation in international settings, and to support new research initiatives and practical actions for the sake of quality in the field.

Funding

This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation through a Consolidator Grant (157797).

Acknowledgements

The LETRINT project director and first author of this paper would like to thank the other team members who also contributed to the text categorization work referred to in this article, particularly Giorgina Cerutti and Albert Morales.

Notes

1.The project “Legal Translation in International Institutional Settings: Scope, Strategies and Quality Markers” is led by the first author and supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation through a Consolidator Grant (157797).
2.Texts for internal use but which are not publicly accessible, such as certain working documents used in monitoring or judicial procedures, are seldom translated into all official languages and are not considered in the LETRINT project. According to institutional informants, the volume of translation generated by these texts is generally negligible.
3.For the sake of brevity, unless otherwise specified, ‘the EU’ will hereinafter refer to the EU institutions selected for the project.
4.Drafts, corrigenda, and revisions are excluded from this comparison in order to focus on translation volumes of new texts (see Section 3.3).
8.In this institution, the terminology coined for the dispute settlement system avoids the connotations of judicial terminology commonly used by adjudicative bodies in national and international jurisdictions (e.g., ‘panel’ is used instead of ‘court’, and ‘report’ instead of ‘judgment’).
9.In contrast to judges’ opinions, whose translations are systematically indicated as such, ICJ judgments are theoretically co-drafted.

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Appendix

Table 1.EU genres with the largest translation volumes (word counts of source text final versions)
Documents ST word count
1.1 Hard law 16 587 94 815 659
Key functions 8157 19 585 003
Regulation 4667 10 155 106
Decision 2855 5 665 035
International agreement 203 2 170 310
Directive 211 1 207 299
Treaty 4 217 877
Secondary functions 8430 75 230 656
Report 596 39 863 629
Minutes 732 7 553 859
Decision proposal 681 4 455 003
Regulation proposal 421 3 136 239
Legislative resolution (EP) 891 2 395 474
1.2 Soft law and other policy formulation 9262 21 227 029
Key functions 5051 14 362 901
Resolution (EP) 1608 10 067 379
Motion for a resolution/decision (EP) 2754 2 866 785
Recommendation 90 251 135
Communication (EC) 64 244 820
Green paper 21 170 794
Secondary functions 4211 6 864 128
Report 1390 4 934 598
Opinion (EP) 417 704 339
Press release 351 464 627
Oral question to the Council (EP) 1551 236 351
Answers for question time (EP) 333 162 666
2.1 Mandatory compliance monitoring 5058 5 730 677
Key functions 4667 4 503 413
Communication/notice on EU legislation implementation (EC) 591 992 277
Report 149 643 203
Communication by Member State 519 560 073
Notification of a concentration 871 283 013
Authorisation regarding State aid 294 238 285
Secondary functions 391 1 227 264
Report 55 288 832
List 51 260 240
Communication (EC) 57 237 170
Press release 194 208 943
Annual report on implementation 5 159 700
2.2 Pre-accession monitoring 115 177 933
Key functions 81 75 106
Report 15 58 022
Answers for question time (EP) 20 8728
Questions for written answer (EP) 23 4568
Secondary functions 34 102 827
Note 4 88 055
Report 15 5028
Working document (EP) 2 3938
Press release 7 3708
Legislative resolution (EP) 4 1635
2.3 Other monitoring and implementation matters 20 591 15 375 320
Key functions 18 339 10 212 638
Minutes 1367 3 245 536
Questions for written answer (EP) 12 594 2 517 301
Communication (EC) 276 1 779 372
Report 151 754 440
Answers for question time (EP) 1970 475 703
Secondary functions 2252 5 162 682
Press release 1300 1 628 446
Minutes 300 987 836
Study (EP) 30 750 095
Communication 99 523 097
Working document 148 506 218
3. Adjudication 7415 21 168 456
Key functions 6841 20 779 217
Judgment 1540 11 560 420
Opinion of the Advocate-General 641 6 573 437
Order 1124 1 147 814
Action 2137 772 099
Reference for a preliminary ruling 982 348 614
Appeal 393 204 134
View of the Advocate General 12 166 024
Secondary functions 574 389 239
Press release 268 286 312
Removal from the register of the case 164 67 882
Note 14 10 900
Staff appointment/oath/assignment/designation 36 13 580
List of publications in the Official Journal 85 7391
4.1 Human resources, finance and procurement 2787 4 884 345
Budget 596 1 280 910
Report 246 1 009 369
Budgetary decision 505 827 741
Resolution on budget (EP) 34 382 576
Item note (EUCO) 6 268 335
4.2 Other coordination and internal matters 222 1 033 331
Rules of procedure 27 766 166
Internal decision 76 111 538
Press release 64 101 318
Report 6 18 860
Internal agreement 3 14 107
Table 2.UN genres with the largest translation volumes (word counts of source text final versions)
Documents ST word count
1.1 Hard law 119 520 463
Key functions 4 35 519
Agreement 4 35 519
Secondary functions 115 484 944
Paper/Note (negotiations) 73 376 311
Amendment proposal 27 90 343
Agenda 13 9628
Rules of procedure 1 8401
Programme of work 1 261
1.2 Soft law and other policy formulation 3755 9 346 009
Key functions 883 1 820 517
Resolution 854 1 526 975
International Law Commission report 9 213 568
Commission on International Trade Law guide/model 2 19 411
Guideline 2 18 167
Framework 2 11 671
Secondary functions 2872 7 525 492
Summary record 547 3 476 075
Letter 831 1 398 389
Report by General Assembly committee (resolution proposal) 151 870 850
Background paper 106 544 367
Official record 79 479 731
2.1 Mandatory compliance monitoring 3627 22 821 966
Key functions 2220 17 148 942
State party’s report (human rights treaties) 257 7 453 030
Special rapporteur report 199 2 049 287
Concluding observations 311 1 438 857
Decision/view/opinion 206 1 036 443
National report (Universal Periodic Review) 99 875 046
Secondary functions 1407 5 673 024
Background paper 439 2 317 404
Summary record 450 2 297 884
Agenda 293 538 707
Procedural report 62 276 028
Letter 146 186 008
2.3 Other monitoring and implementation matters 4794 28 394 935
Key functions 4641 27 750 950
Follow-up report by the Secretary-General 1214 9 008 674
Report (UN bodies) 1163 8 960 114
Meeting report 514 5 807 728
Information by NGO 601 656 566
Working paper 160 586 673
Secondary functions 153 643 985
Agenda 143 435 901
List of participants 2 160 088
Information notice/circular 8 47 996
3. Adjudication 218 2 219 328
Key functions 102 1 501 747
Judge separate opinion 21 271 361
(Counter-)Memorial 5 182 341
Judgment 6 233 541
Judge dissenting opinion 14 212 421
State rejoinder 2 178 035
Secondary functions 116 717 581
Work report 15 210 665
Verbatim record 13 189 162
Summary 8 121 471
Press release 72 81 245
Memorandum on appointment 6 16 645
4.1 Human resources, finance and procurement 1585 11 212 301
Budget 366 4 075 111
Financial report 110 1 628 530
Budgetary performance report 118 1 271 560
Assessment of contributions 82 616 301
Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions report 102 567 733
4.2 Other coordination and internal matters 2432 8 966 331
Journal of the UN 224 2 045 087
Office of Internal Oversight Services report 186 1 356 935
Communication 227 1 281 296
Letter 670 1 191 805
Communication by the Secretary-General 175 571 280
Table 3.WTO genres with the largest translation volumes (word counts of source text final versions)
Documents ST word count
1.1 Hard law 824 2 017 783
Key functions 128 102 825
Decision by the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures 81 41 603
Decision by the General Council 30 33 690
Schedules of Concessions 6 17 129
Ministerial decision 10 9744
Secondary functions 696 1 914 958
Minutes 70 755 345
Communication/proposal by Member State and interested parties 388 574 342
Note 33 233 835
Certification of modifications to obligations 138 133 523
Report 10 106 405
1.2 Soft law and other policy formulation 399 548 445
Key functions 4 29 320
Ministerial declaration 4 29 320
Secondary functions 395 519 125
Statement 220 212 356
Communication/proposal by Member State and interested parties 110 128 750
Minutes 13 114 357
Note 24 23 228
Report 7 13 231
2.1 Mandatory compliance monitoring 9116 15 673 469
Key functions 8523 13 953 998
Notification by Member State 7442 6 001 994
Report by the Secretariat (TPR) 51 3 349 082
Minutes (TPR) 71 2 020 655
Questions and replies 500 717 320
Report by the Secretariat (other procedures) 28 677 017
Secondary functions 593 1 719 471
Note 311 1 180 684
Communication/proposal by Member State and interested parties 112 165 144
Minutes 27 137 737
Report 17 117 575
Procedural note 65 62 640
2.2 Pre-accession monitoring 182 2 496 555
Key functions 153 1 777 616
Questions and replies 84 821 835
Schedules of concessions 13 784 463
Communication 54 164 543
Communication/proposal by Member State and interested parties 2 6775
Secondary functions 29 718 939
Report 11 638 753
Communication 3 54 867
Bibliography and lists 6 18 586
General statement 3 3414
Procedural note 4 1697
2.3 Other monitoring and implementation matters 723 5 048 764
Key functions 573 3 941 872
Minutes 338 3 117 643
Communication/proposal by Member State and interested parties 107 369 495
Report by the Director-General 8 204 599
Report by the Chairperson (committees) 60 128 038
Report 41 109 627
Secondary functions 150 1 106 892
Procedural note 13 474 560
Report 95 406 573
Note 35 204 544
Background document 3 15 098
Communication/proposal by Member State and interested parties 4 6117
3. Adjudication 855 8 567 250
Key functions 737 7 814 556
Panel report 31 5 918 833
Appellate Body report 16 1 163 352
Arbitration decision 7 144 496
Request for the establishment of a panel 37 86 975
Request for consultations 43 84 989
Secondary functions 118 752 694
Minutes 51 462 247
Report 8 241 376
Procedural note 21 39 452
Agenda 31 7653
Note 5 1110
4.1 Human resources, finance and procurement 201 437 898
Report 26 188 990
Procedural note 58 80 596
Minutes 16 53 761
Staff notice 65 50 163
Note/communication by the Director-General 3 26 343
4.2 Other coordination and internal matters 163 774 178
Minutes 25 539 012
Presentation 2 86 329
Press release 83 62 061
Annual report (General Council) 7 58 986
Note by the Chairperson (committees) 3 8557

Address for correspondence

Fernando Prieto Ramos

Centre for Legal and Institutional Translation Studies (Transius)

Faculty of Translation and Interpreting

University of Geneva

40, boulevard du Pont-d’Arve

CH-1205 GENEVA

Switzerland

Fernando.Prieto@unige.ch

Co-author information

Diego Guzmán
University of Geneva
Diego.Guzman@unige.ch