What was the language of the judgment again?: Traces of bilingualism in monolingual judgments

Alexander Teutsch


Multilingualism is often perceived as a burden for judicial institutions that are used to holding proceedings in a specific language. However, by translating resources and evidence from a different language into the language of a proceeding, courts are enabled to write judgments based on a monolingual set of resources potentially with minimal or no reference to their source language. This article aims at uncovering this myth of judicial monolingualism, showing how multilingual courts act when indispensable resources are only available in a language different from that of the proceedings. By analysing monolingual criminal judgments delivered by Justices of the Peace in the bilingual (German/Italian) Province of South Tyrol, Italy, this article shows how, in citing case-law available only in Italian, traces of Italian are introduced in judgments written in German. Through a quantitative study, three approaches to deal with this issue have been analysed (i) collages between the two languages; (ii) direct quotation from Italian; and (iii) translation. The article critically analyses these three approaches and highlights an alternative approach, consisting in a combination between direct quotation from Italian and a translation into German, in order to guarantee both legal certainty and adequate understanding for all concerned parties.


Judgment drafting techniques; bilingual court practises; bilingual resources; language status; ideological monolingualism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7203/Just.2.24847


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