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Language and Culture in International Legal Communication


  • Alenka Kocbek

    (University of Primorska, Slovenia)


In the contemporary business world, partners belonging to different nations, and hence different cultures, conduct business operations in either the language of one of the parties involved or in a third, neutral language, serving as lingua franca. Thus, language skills, as an essential component of the communicative competence, imply a certain extent of implicit or explicit translating and interpreting. The functionalist approaches in translation science, and most of all the Skopos theory by J. H. Vermeer, view translation as an intercultural transfer, which inevitably entails taking into account intercultural differences. As intercultural business communication is directly affected by the legal systems of the cultures involved, the communicating parties need to be acquainted with both the source and target legal systems. This is especially the case with English, as the Anglo-American legal system, based essentially on common law, differs substantially from continental law, to which most of the European countries belong. English as the world’s most commonly used lingua franca will have to be adapted to its new function by adopting terms and concepts from other cultures and, within the EU, take into consideration the existing discrepancies between the continental and the Anglo-American legal systems. In this paper, cases of non-equivalence regarding legal terms are illustrated with examples from company law. In conclusion, some linguistic and cultural implications of the use of English as lingua franca, as well as their impact on teaching and learning practices are presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Alenka Kocbek, 2006. "Language and Culture in International Legal Communication," Managing Global Transitions, University of Primorska, Faculty of Management Koper, vol. 4(3), pages 231-247.
  • Handle: RePEc:mgt:youmgt:v:4:y:2006:i:3:p:231-247

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    translation; lingua franca; Skopos; cultural embeddedness;

    JEL classification:

    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law
    • L84 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Personal, Professional, and Business Services
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • M53 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Training


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