‘Data is’ or ‘data are’

The topic of whether data and media have become singular mass nouns is one of the topics people get very angry about in these discussions.

I would like to say that I can see the sense of data being/becoming a singular noun in general usage. After all, we don’t usually use the singular datum in general English.

Nevertheless, it is still the case that legal texts prefer the plural.

Translators unfortunately have to think about these things.

It has come to my knowledge that while the GDPR uses the plural, the English Data Protection Act 2018 uses the singular.

The ICO seems to use the singular too.

Pam Peters (Cambridge Guide to English Usage) says it can currently be either singular or plural, that in about 80% of cases it is indeterminate (e.g. ‘data collection’ – no verb indicating number), and that many writers try to preserve the plural by claiming that the singular is ‘only spoken usage’, ‘only American’ (!), ‘only technical texts’ and all sorts of things.

hilfs-hilfsweise

A note on a translation problem: a colleague had a sentence with hilfsweise and later hilfs-hilfsweise. I have met ‘in the alternative…in the further alternative’.

Also encountered: ‘in the first alternative…in the second alternative’. I think this puts the two on the same level, whereas ‘in the further alternative’ makes it subordinate – first try one, then if that doesn’t work, fall back on two.

Also encountered in German texts: eventualiter and subeventualiter.

I have not given a context. It is sometimes used in applications to court, requesting one alternative, but if that fails, a second.

A Linguee search for ‘in the further alternative’ reveals also ‘äußerst hilfsweise’ and ‘weiter hilfsweise’. A web search reveals more. A ProZ entry suggests that the German should be hilfsweise and höchst fürsorglich.

But I don’t need to go into enormous detail, although the commenter xxxKrstyMacC may wish to.

 

unverzüglich/without undue delay

I normally translate unverzüglich as without undue delay. This is always in contracts governed by German law where the German-language version takes precedence.

The background is in section 121 of the German Civil Code, which contains a statutory definition (Legaldefinition):

§ 121 Anfechtungsfrist

(1) Die Anfechtung muss in den Fällen der §§ 119, 120 ohne schuldhaftes Zögern (unverzüglich) erfolgen, nachdem der Anfechtungsberechtigte von dem Anfechtungsgrund Kenntnis erlangt hat. Die einem Abwesenden gegenüber erfolgte Anfechtung gilt als rechtzeitig erfolgt, wenn die Anfechtungserklärung unverzüglich abgesendet worden ist.
Here’s the ‘official’ English translation:

Section 121 Period for avoidance

(1) Avoidance must be effected, in the cases set out in sections 119 and 120,without culpable delay (without undue delay) after the person entitled to avoid obtains knowledge of the ground for avoidance. Avoidance made to an absent person is regarded as effected in good time if the declaration of avoidance is forwarded without undue delay.

The translation is a bit odd, but there is no good solution. The German gives the definition first (without culpable delay) and the term defined  (unverzüglich) in brackets. The English seems to say that whenever in the text of the Civil Code we encounter without undue delay we should read it to mean without culpable delay. That is the way brackets are used in many statutory definitions in German.

I certainly don’t think that an English-speaking reader would understand ‘without undue delay’ to mean ‘without culpable delay’. But it does indicate that not every delay will be a problem.

Triebel/Vogenauer write that a lot of terms that are precise in German law, and even have a statutory definition as in this case, have English semi-equivalents that are rather vague.

The contracts I translate have usually been governed by German law and with the German version taking priority, my translation just for convenience, and they have usually been for individuals in big companies to understand, but if they have a legal problem, they will consult a German colleague or lawyer because the German version prevails. However, there are many contracts written in English but governed by German law. I would not translate one of those because I’m not a practising and insured lawyer. Triebel/Vogenauer is written with those lawyers in mind. Their knowledge of law may be better than their knowledge of the English they draft it in.

There are two ways of handling this in such a contract: 1) write ‘without undue delay (unverzüglich, §121 BGB)’ or something along those lines 2) attach a glossary to the contract including all the terms with a specific meaning in German that would need explanation in English.

Triebel/Vogenauer (305 ff.) discuss the problem of translating vague English terms in German and using the German term with a statutory definition, for example translating ‘without (undue) delay’ as ‘unverzüglich’ in the sense of section 121 of the Civil Code. They give a table of such terms with both a definition of the English meaning and a partial approximation in German law.

Ken Adams encountered this problem in 2015 – see the post “Shall Without Undue Delay” (Including a German Angle). I was alerted to this article in Twitter only this week.

He thought ‘promptly’ was more elegant than ‘without undue delay’. He received an email from an attorney in Düsseldorf who cautioned against this is the contract was governed by German law. He explained the problem and added ‘So I tend to use “without undue delay”, often followed by “unverzüglich” in brackets’. There are some useful comments thee, including two from Stuart Bugg, who does translate such contracts. (His book, Contracts in English, is ot based on the law of any particular jurisdiction, and it contains an apendix with German translations of legal terms).

On Juraforum there is a list of terms given a Legaldefinition (statutory definition) in German law.

Legaldefinition meint eine im Gesetz enthaltene Definition eines unbestimmten Rechtsbegriffes. Sie sind oftmals daran zu erkennen, dass das definierte Wort nach der Definition in Klammern steht.

 

Zum Beispiel:   Anspruch, § 194 Absatz 1 BGB

„Das Recht, von einem anderen ein Tun oder Unterlassen zu verlangen (Anspruch), unterliegt der Verjährung.“

Ein Anspruch ist gem. der Legaldefinition in § 194 Absatz 1 BGB ein Recht, von einem anderen ein Tun oder Unterlassen zu verlangen.

 

Persönlich bekannt

I have always found it confusing that persons appearing (die Erschienenen) before a notary may be described as ausgewiesen durch Personalausweis or persönlich bekannt.  It makes it look as if there is a big difference between the two, but I don’t think there is. It isn’t a case of a) I saw the person’s passport and here is the number and b) an old acquaintance.

I dread to think how I used to translate this years ago, when I encountered it more often.

In fact there’s a good explanation on LEO, (by wienergriessler), as sometimes happens:

Jein: “dem Notar von Person bekannt” kann heißen, dass die Person sich bei einer früheren Beurkundung schon mit Ausweis/Pass “ausgewiesen” hat; der Notar darf aber m.W. auch dann “von Person bekannt” schreiben,wenn er die Person aus seinem persönlichen Kontakt kennt,ohne den Ausweis gesehen zu haben
(Beispiel: Ein Richter, den der Notar aus dem Gericht kennt, will etwas beurkunden lassen. Dann darf der Notar auch schreiben: von Person bekannt)

So it seems that in case b) the notary has copied out the ID/passport number before, in most cases.

I was reminded of this some time ago when I looked at Diatopische Variation in der deutschen Rechtssprache, by Brammbilla/Gerdes/Messina. I turned to pp. 314 ff., Recht in Bayern:

Wie die Untersuchung des Korpus ergibt, verwenden die bayerischen Notare nach 1899 die vorher in Bayern übliche Formulierung mir nach Namen, Stand und Wohnort bekannt nicht mehr, sondern nur noch die bayernunspezifische Formulierung mir persönlich bekannt.

I like the word bayernunspezifisch. But the earlier formulation made it clear to me what the wording means.

The book immediately gets very exciting on the subjects of Bavarian weights and measures (‘Das Dezimal betrug in Bayern ein hundertstel Tagwerk und das wiederum 34,07 Quadratmeter’), occupations and subject of contract (variant terms for potatoes and sausages).

 

Im Krug zum grünen Kranze

This ‘folksong’ went through my mind after I saw a wreath on a house. Text from Projekt Gutenberg. 

Brüderschaft

Im Krug zum grünen Kranze
Da kehrt ich durstig ein:
Da saß ein Wandrer drinnen
Am Tisch bei kühlem Wein.Ein Glas war eingegossen,
Das wurde nimmer leer;
Sein Haupt ruht’ auf dem Bündel,
Als wär’s ihm viel zu schwer.Ich tät mich zu ihm setzen,
Ich sah ihm ins Gesicht,
Das schien mir gar befreundet,
Und dennoch kannt ich’s nicht.Da sah auch mir ins Auge
Der fremde Wandersmann,
Und füllte meinen Becher,
Und sah mich wieder an.Hei, was die Becher klangen,
Wie brannte Hand in Hand:
»Es lebe die Liebste deine,
Herzbruder, im Vaterland!«

Written, like so much else, by Wilhelm Müller (who died of a heart attack at the age of 32).

On YouTube.

The man sleeping in an alcoholic stupor in the in Krug zum grünen Kranze in Halle was Carl von Basedow, Müller’s future brother-in-law and the later discoverer of Morbus Basedow.

Morbus Basedow was discovered independently and 5 years earlier in England by Robert James Graves. We call it Graves’ disease (with or without the apostrophe).

Marty Feldman had Graves disease, as could be seen. So did Heino (hence the dark glasses) and many others. You can even her Heino singing it – did he know about the connection?

I won’t go into the history of Burschenschaft and Studentenverbindung. Wikipedia English and German.

Book recommendation: Triebel/Vogenauer, Englisch als Vertragssprache

Here is a strong recommendation for a book I have not yet read, only skimmed, myself. Unfortunately I have too many books on the go (rereading Die Emigranten and the Patrick Melrose novels, reading the Secret Barrister, Cotton on Photography as Contemporary Art and two books on literary theory, which we were only just dipping our toes into in the 60s and 70s, to say nothing of a translation of Willehalm and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms  – I can’t remember ever wanting to read so much and having so little time to do it).

Volker Triebel, Stefan Vogenaur, Englisch als Vertragssprache, Beck Verlag 2108

Thanks to Inge Noeninger for pointing it out on Twitter (note the bust of Goethe on her bookshelves – I only have Marx). I had waiting ages, from 1995 to 2012, for the new edition of Englisches Handels- und Wirtschaftsrecht, which was not quite appropriate to my direction of translation, and missed this one.

Please read the table of contents (PDF) via Beck Verlag. Scroll down to see it. The foreword is there too.

The book is intended for lawyers, not legal translators (whereas most of the more pedestrian Legal English books are always advertised to be suitable for translators, interpreters, lawyers and anyone else with a few euros to spare).

The first swection deals among other things with how lawyers actually learn English and how much they do both on LL.M. courses and in big international law firms. This is something I can’t remember reading anywhere else. There is also a bit on the niche role of German as a legal language. There is then a section on what can go wrong, both linguistically and semantically, and a section on problems of general English, followed by one on the special problems of the English language in contracts. Section 5 deals with problems in translating English contract terms into German, Section 6 with problems where the language and the legal system diverge, and section 7 advice on safer drafting. At the end is a bibliography in eight sections. There are indexes in both German and English.

Looking at the bibliographies, I have noted Christopher Hutton, Word Meaning and Legal Interpretation: An Introductory Guide, 2014, but perhaps I should not buy it until I have read this one, which warrants close examination and a large part of which is of direct interest to me. I know most of the books on legal English for non-English-speaking lawyers. I am quite ignorant of how much has been published on Auseinanderfallen von Vertragssprache und anwendbarem Recht – whenever I translate a contract into English, it is governed by German law, so my translation is just for information, and if anyone asked me to help draft a contract in English I would refuse as I’m not a practising lawyer – still, it is interesting, and I recognize some names, not just Triebel himself (several articles) but Suzanne Ballansat-Aebi, who has written well about legal translation, and Gerhard Dannemann.

I’m not sure I’m brainy enough to read Heikki Mattila on Comparative Legal Linguistics, translated from the Finnish, though the history of legal abbreviations is a big temptation, and another element of great interest to me is legal Latin, which varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so is part of what needs translating too. It’s a bit expensive even in Kindle, so I may be safe for the time being.