Legal Lexicography - Important Aspects

Important Aspects

Based on the discussion in Nielsen 1994, there are a number of aspects that lexicographers should take into account when working with legal lexicography. One of the important aspects of legal lexicography is to establish a profile of the intended dictionary users. This is particularly significant if the dictionary is to be used by other than "native" lawyers, for instance bilingual law dictionaries for translation. A user profile should focus on the following competencies: The users' legal competence in their "native" field of law; the users' legal competence in the foreign field of law; the users' legal-language competence in their native language; the users' legal-language competence in the foreign language. When lexicographers have thus profiled the intended user group they have a clear picture of what types of data to include in the dictionary so that it can be of the most help to the users. The profile will also help lexicographers presenting the necessary data, such as definitions, in the appropriate language so that, in particular, "foreign" users can benefit from the data. The typical example is where a European continental lawyer consults an English law dictionary.

Another important aspect is the scope of coverage of a dictionary. This refers to the extent to which a law dictionary covers the field of law. The basic distinction is between general-field dictionaries and sub-field dictionaries. A general-field dictionary of law is one whose purpose is to cover the entire field of law as represented by all its subfields, and a sub-field dictionary of law is one whose purpose is to cover one or few distinct sub-fields of law, for instance a dictionary of contract law and a dictionary of family law. It is obvious that more data about the law and legal language can be included in a sub-field dictionary than in a general-field dictionary of law of the same size. The result is that sub-field dictionaries can give a much more detailed description of the law and its language than other types of dictionary.

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