Two translations of the Swiss Civil Code

I’m just going through old books and find a translation of the Law of Persons, Article 1-89bis of the Swiss Civil Code, by the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, by a team of seven translators, copyright 2006, which I bought for much bucks in the days before the Swiss government had an English version online (PDF).

Here’s the beginning without much comment, out of interest:


  Art. 1 A. Anwendung des Rechts

A. Anwendung des Rechts

1 Das Gesetz findet auf alle Rechtsfragen Anwendung, für die es nach Wortlaut oder Auslegung eine Bestimmung enthält.

2 Kann dem Gesetz keine Vorschrift entnommen werden, so soll das Gericht1nach Gewohnheitsrecht und, wo auch ein solches fehlt, nach der Regel entscheiden, die es als Gesetzgeber aufstellen würde.

3 Es folgt dabei bewährter Lehre und Überlieferung.

1 Ausdruck gemäss Ziff. I 1 des BG vom 26. Juni 1998, in Kraft seit 1. Jan. 2000 (AS 19991118; BBl 1996 I 1). Diese Änd. ist im ganzen Erlass berücksichtigt.

Art. 2 B. Inhalt der Rechtsverhältnisse / I. Handeln nach Treu und Glauben

B. Inhalt der Rechtsverhältnisse

I. Handeln nach Treu und Glauben

1 Jedermann hat in der Ausübung seiner Rechte und in der Erfüllung seiner Pflichten nach Treu und Glauben zu handeln.

2 Der offenbare Missbrauch eines Rechtes findet keinen Rechtsschutz.

Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce version

Art. 1

Application of the law

The law shall apply to all legal questions that are covered, according to wording or interpretation, by one of the provisions thereof.

In the absence of a provision of law, the judge shall decide according to customary law and, in the absence of such customary law, according to the rule he would establish as a legislator.

In this regard, he shall follow established doctrine and tradition.

Art. 2

Content of legal relationships – Acting in good faith. Good faith

Each person shall be required to exercise his rights and fulfill his duties in good faith.

The manifest abuse of a right shall not be protected by law.

Online version at

Art. 1

Application of the law

1 The law applies according to its wording or interpretation to all legal questions for which it contains a provision.

2 In the absence of a provision, the court shall decide in accordance with customary law and, in the absence of customary law, in accordance with the rule that it would make as legislator.

3 In doing so, the court shall follow established doctrine and case law.

Art. 2

Scope and limits of legal relationships – Acting in good faith

1 Every person must act in good faith in the exercise of his or her rights and in the performance of his or her obligations.

2 The manifest abuse of a right is not protected by law.

The comparison is quite interesting. Both versions are acceptable but one might translate differently in some places.

I prefer ‘in accordance with’ to ‘according to’ (which is a trivial matter), but why does the online version translate Überlieferung as ‘case law’? The court (rather than judge) as legislator – for Gesetzgeber I tend to write legislature.

I prefer ‘to perform his duties’ to ‘fulfil’ (‘fulfill’ is the US spelling) and ‘obligations’. ‘hat…nach Treu und Glauben zu handeln’ – one version has ‘must act’ and the other has ‘shall be required to…’.I would have thought ‘shall’ would be OK here – sometimes it is too strong for ‘hat…zu’.


Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary by Tom West

I am pleased to announce that Tom West has published the Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary he has been working on.
You can find details and sample pages on Tom’s website. While you’re there, take a look at his blog (I’ve never succeeded in entering the feed for this in Feedly).
The dictionary can only be ordered from the USA at the moment, at createspace, but this may change in future.

The dictionary is a kind of three-column glossary, but with some explanations in the English column. The first column is either German or French. There is a useful introduction with remarks about the problems of researching Swiss legal lanague.

German-English legal translators sometimes have to research terms from Austria, Switzerland (several cantons) and Liechtenstein – I have translated German stuff from Alto Adige but not yet from Belgium. There are fewer reference materials available for these than for Germany. French translators must have the same problem. I know one translator who poses queries on mailing lists and whenever he or she doesn’t understand the text describes it as Swiss, which suggests the kinds of problems we face.


Weißwurstäquator, from the mysterious Kamelopedia (albeit misplacing Franconia vis-à-vis the WW):

Within Germany, the dividing line is the River Danube, which puts me north of the equator. Wikipedia has a map showing the Danube, but the Weißwurst is not eaten everywhere south of the Danube, of course, only, at most, in the German bit (and there, ideally only before the cuckoo clock strikes midday).

Meanwhile, Strange Maps has a graphic image of the Swiss Röstigraben, and much information. Here is a more detailed map.

The language border dividing these two areas is known jestingly as the Röstigraben (in German) or the rideau de rösti (in French). A Graben is a ditch and a rideau is a curtain, so you get the idea of separation – but what a Rösti is and why it is significant, requires a bit more explanation.

This dish is made mainly by frying grated potatoes in a pan. It was formerly eaten as breakfast by farmers in the (German-speaking) Bern canton. The original conceit of the Röstigraben was that it constituted the western limit of the German Swiss culture, beyond which people spoke (and ate) differently.

The Rösti has gained popularity as a side dish all over Switzerland, but the language and cultural differences persist.

Another culinary division mentioned in comments to the above is the Gefilte Fish Line:

The “gefilte fish line” ran though eastern Poland.
Jews living to the west — most of Poland, as well as Germany and the rest of Western Europe — ate the sweet gefilte fish. Those to the east — Lithuania, Latvia and Russia — ate the peppery version.
But Steinlauf’s tale is not just a fish story. It’s also about language.
He said the “gefilte fish line” roughly overlaps another important line: a linguistic divide between two major variants of Yiddish.

LATER NOTE: Here is a map showing the Grits Line (see comments). The map was originally from CNN but I found it in this forum.

Thanks to the Great Wall of Catalonia.

Swiss criminal law terminology / Terminologie des Schweizer Strafrechts

This vocabulary doesn’t seem familiar to me. Go to the Obergericht, click on Dolmetscherwesen and then on Strafrechtsterminologie der Bundeskanzlei (D, F, I, E). It can’t be copied, but here’s one entry, scanned, to give an impression (scanned, OCR’d but not spellchecked for the various languages):

Täter (1); Täterin (2); Straftäter (3); Straftäterin (4); Delinquent (5); Delinquentin (6); Straffälliger (7); Straffällige (8)Person, die rechtswidrig und schuldhaft einen gesetzlichen Tatbestand erfüllt hat.
PS: CH; USG: (7)(8) zu vermeiden
(1) Schweiz. Strafgesetzbuch, Art. 7 (SR 311.0): (2) BSG 321.1 G 150395, Art. 46 Abs. 1 Ziff. 1; (3) BFS/BJ,
Anstaltenkatalog, 1998, S. 11: (4) POMBE, Baechtold, 1995; (5) BFS, Rückfallraten, 1997, S. 21; (6)(DF)(USG)
T. Freytag, Universität Freiburg, Seminar für Strafrecht, 2001; (7)(8) BFS, Bewährungshiffe in der Schweiz, 2001,
auteur (1); auteure (2); auteur de l’lnfraction (3); auteure de l’lnfraction (4); auteur de l’acte (5); auteure de l’acte (6); auteur de l’acte punissabie (7); auteure de l’acte punissabie (8); deltnquant (9); delinquante (10); auteur dlrect (11); auteure directe (12); auteur materiel (13); auteure materielle (14); auteur immediat (15); auteure immediate (16)Personne qui accomplit personneilement, avec la consclence ou ia volonte extgees par la loi, les actes
materlels constitutlfs d’une infraction.
Code penal suisse, (1) art. 7, (3) art. 27 a\. 3, (5) art. 18 ai 3, (9) art. 42 eh. 1 (RS 311.0); (2)(6)(8) CHA BE,
SCTerm, 1997; (4)(12)(14)(16)(GRM) ACH; (7) RSB 321.1 L 150395, art. 235; (10) Cornu, Voc. juridique, 1990,
p. 248; (11)(13)(15) Graven, Infraction penaie punissabie, 1995, p. 282; (DF) d’apres source (10), p. 83 sous
autore (1); autrice (2); autore di un reato (3); autrice di un reato (4); autore di reato (5); autrice di reato (6); autore diretto (7); autrice diretta (8); agente (9); delinquente (10)
Persona che realizza I presupposti oggettivl e soggettivi 6\ un reato. PS: CH: GRM: (9M10)f./m.
(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(DF) aw. M. Hohl Tattarietti, 2001; Codice penaie svizzero, (9) art. 7 cpv. 3, (10) art. 42 n. 1 (RS 311.0)
offender (1); perpetrator (2)Person who commits a crimlnal act with the mens rea required by the law.
(1) Home Office, Digest 2, Criminal Justice System, 1993, p. 7; (2) Romain, Dict. Legat Terms, part 1, EN-DE, 1989;
(DF) adaptation ofFrench definition

On the subject of Swiss German, Jens Wiese at Blogwiese has just announced that he has reached the end of his topic. At the moment he is rehashing old topics. He says that he often gets queries and they are all words he has already discussed. He still writes a weekly column in a couple of Swiss newspapers.

(Thanks to the ubiquitous Urs Wolffers)