The Murrinh-patha legal glossary: translating legal concepts across cultures

Ford, Lysbeth and McCormack, Dominic (2005) The Murrinh-patha legal glossary: translating legal concepts across cultures. ESP Across Cultures: Journal of the University of Foggia, Italy, 2. pp. 58-76. ISSN 97888-758-1097-9

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This paper reports on a ground-breaking project to produce a glossary of commonly-used English legal terms in an Australian Indigenous language. The project is a response to the statistically significant incarceration rates of Indigenous Australians, particularly in the language area considered, whose limited command or complete lack of English puts them at a severe disadvantage when they are confronted head-on by the Australian legal system.

Magistrates, police and legal aid services regularly find themselves hamstrung by the lack of a common language to communicate with defendants, detainees and clients alike. Indigenous interpreters, while fluent in the first language of their clients, often lack sufficient and specific English competency to be able to decipher the meanings of English legal terms.
Funded by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and The Law Society of the Northern Territory Public Purposes Trust, the project was undertaken by Ford, a linguist with eighteen years experience in languages of the area, several Murrinh-patha elders, John Sheldon, a legal aid lawyer based in Darwin, and McCormack, a lawyer fluent in Murrinh-patha.

Murrinh-patha was chosen because it, rather than English or Kriol, is the lingua franca of approximately 2,500 Indigenous Australians in the Wadeye region, 400km south-west of Darwin in the Daly River Aboriginal Land Trust area of the Northern Territory of Australia.
The project has had several successful outcomes: a legal glossary of the most commonly used English legal terms; increased understanding of the legal process by the Murrinh-patha elders who worked on the project; and increased understanding of the subtleties of Murrinh-patha by the non-Indigenous researchers. The glossary has also proved a useful pedagogical tool in the training of Indigenous interpreters, because it consists largely of paraphrases which provide an Australian Indigenous context for each legal concept. The rigour with which it was conducted is evident in the plain English paraphrases and the morpheme by morpheme glosses provided for each Murrinh-patha translation.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The ESP Across Cultures journal - is not included in the 2012 ERA Journal List.
Field of Research (2008): 18 Law and Legal Studies > 1899 Other Law and Legal Studies > 189999 Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2010 02:15
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2011 03:46

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