Translatability of Law and Legal Technology – Findings from Corpus Analyses and Bilingual Legal Drafting in Canada

Forthcoming in: The Oxford Handbook of Translation and Social Practices (eds. Meng Ji and Sara Laviosa)

20 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2019

See all articles by Wolfgang Alschner

Wolfgang Alschner

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

John Mark Keyes

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: July 26, 2019

Abstract

Lawyers and citizens increasingly engage with law through technology intermediaries. For example, to declare their taxes, they consult tax software rather than the tax code. This greater role of legal technology raises new issues for bilingual jurisdictions. In Canada, for instance, federal legislation is not translated, but simultaneously co-drafted by Francophone and Anglophone lawyers resulting in small differences in the expression of the law and occasional inconsistencies. This contribution showcases how these differences can affect legal technology applications. Depending on the language they work with, lawyers may encode different interpretations in software and algorithm may yield different results. Using a bilingual corpus of 3000 Canadian federal regulations as a case study, we demonstrate that the same artificial intelligence techniques applied to the same legal texts in different languages yield different results. As a consequence, we argue that legal technology cannot simply be developed for one language and then translated to another language. Instead, legal technology has to be “co-developed” for different languages similar to how legislation is currently “co-drafted.”

Keywords: legislative drafting, translation, bilingualism, legal technology, corpus analysis, artificial intelligence

Suggested Citation

Alschner, Wolfgang and Keyes, John Mark, Translatability of Law and Legal Technology – Findings from Corpus Analyses and Bilingual Legal Drafting in Canada (July 26, 2019). Forthcoming in: The Oxford Handbook of Translation and Social Practices (eds. Meng Ji and Sara Laviosa) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3427214

Wolfgang Alschner (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

John Mark Keyes

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

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