Journal of Civil Law Studies


The first codes of Louisiana (1808 and 1825) were written in French and translated into English. When the Civil Code was revised in 1870, it was written in English only. Recent revisions, all in English, aim at promoting a civilian vocabulary that differs from that of the common law. This article discusses the translation of the Louisiana Civil Code from English to French in the context of the steep decline and limited revival of the French language usage in Louisiana. It explores the purpose and the implementation process of the translation project, detailing every step, and identifying linguistic and legal challenges as well as resources relied on. With the objective of producing a truly Louisianan translation, translators used original French sources to discover what the legislator intended the law to mean. The process may then be described as a retranslation, aiming at reviving the original language. Where texts have been substantially rewritten, yet still reflecting civil law logic and style, the translation aims at echoing the spirit of the Code. However, in the several occasions where the drafters borrowed common law substance and style, the civilian spirit no longer vivifies the translation, as it is obscured by an overabundance of language.

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