Polysemy, Homonymy and Other Sources of Ambiguity in the Language of Chinese Contracts

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Instytut Językoznawstwa Wydział Neofilologii, UAM

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This paper discusses the main sources of ambiguity in Chinese-Polish translation of the contract legal language. Legal Chinese is very often the same as ordinary formal Chinese and that fact causes ambiguity in Chinese contracts. The author focuses on polysemy and homonymy which make the interpretation of legal language difficult and ambiguous. The meaning of Chinese characters depends on the textual context. However, when an interpreter does not know the background information of translated legal texts, it is very difficult to achieve a high quality legal translation. The abundance of homophones in Chinese language also poses a problem, especially in the case of contracts concluded in words, not in writing. The paper further presents different grammatical functions of Chinese terms encountered in contracts without a morphological change. Such linguistic features of Chinese language as: the absence of distinction between singular and plural nouns, lack of inflection, no grammatical categories of tense and aspect cause ambiguity and vagueness in interpreting the Chinese agreements. Moreover, the understanding of such texts is sometimes incorrect due to omissions and elliptical sentences. The author also shows the differences in the meaning of terms, which apparently signify the same entities and concepts in Polish and Chinese legal languages but in fact differ significantly.




Chinese-Polish translation, legal language, contracts, legal translation


Comparative Legilinguistics, vol. 1, 2009, pp. 207-215.



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego