Book chapter
Open access

Lexical Readability as an Indicator of Quality in Translation: Best Practices from Swiss Legislation

ContributorsCanavese, Paoloorcid
PublisherNew York : Routledge
Publication date2020

Swiss legislation stands out as a remarkable example of clear legal drafting. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Swiss Civil Code was drafted following the principle of “popular law.” Over the last 30 years, different steps have been taken toward drafting even clearer legislation. For example, the concept of clarity was integrated into Swiss law in 2007 (art. 7, Languages Act). To date, however, few empirical studies have been conducted on the quality of Swiss legislation, especially with regard to Italian, which is an official minority and translation language within a trilingual institutional context. This study aims to partially fill this gap. It examines the development of readability of Swiss legislation on a lexical level, as a condition for clarity and therefore one of the indicators of drafting quality. This study will investigate the use of current and modern vocabulary and the occurrence of some archaic connectives from a diachronic perspective. LEX.CH.IT, a corpus of Swiss federal legislation in Italian covering 1974–2018, was used for various, mostly quantitative, analyses. The results confirm that clarity has always been a feature of Swiss legislation and has been further enhanced by the above-mentioned measures. The Swiss case can therefore be considered an example of best practices. This chapter aims to show that Swiss multilingual legislation can be taken as an example of clear legal drafting. It provides a brief overview of Swiss institutional multilingualism, explaining to what extent clarity is deep-rooted in Swiss legal culture and how recent developments might have contributed to further improve the quality of federal legislative acts. It is part of a broader corpus-based study that takes into account a much wider range of readability and comprehensibility aspects of Swiss legislation. Switzerland is a quadrilingual country, where German, French and Italian are both national and official languages, whereas Romansh is a national language only. It has attempted to show from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective that Switzerland can be considered as a model of clear legal drafting. The corpus study presented earlier has captured this twofold nature of drafting quality in Swiss legislation through linguistic data of lexical readability.

  • Legal translation
  • Legal Italian
  • Swiss Italian
  • Multilingual legislation
  • Clarity
  • Plain legal language
  • Lexical readability
  • Corpus study
Citation (ISO format)
CANAVESE, Paolo. Lexical Readability as an Indicator of Quality in Translation: Best Practices from Swiss Legislation. In: Institutional Translation and Interpreting: Assessing Practices and Managing for Quality. New York : Routledge, 2020. p. 26–43. doi: 10.4324/9780429264894-4
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Book chapter (Accepted version)

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