oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Words, law and a search engine

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



The above article briefly outlines the problems associated with GOOGLE translations of Latin to English and conversely English to Latin. The need for some such assistance has been created by the unfortunate fact that today many lawyers and jurists can no longer read legal texts written when Latin was the international language of scholars. South Africa, together with other countries having Roman-Dutch legal systems, has been adversely affected. The immediate response was for those local scholars who were well versed in Latin and law to complete competent translations of certain Old Authorities. The need for further Latin translation has been questioned and not infrequently dismissed as irrelevant in the modern legal world. Should a required text not be available, the "Translate" function of the GOOGLE search engine is one of the only alternatives. Here I have tried to illustrate the fallacy of this present solution by choosing a few lines from Justinian's Institutes, and having it translated into English by the GOOGLE "Translate" tool. The result is a linguist's nightmare. Conversely, translating competent English versions of Institutes 2 1 12 into Latin produces a mangled "Gobbledy GOOGLE," completely ungrammatical and incomprehensible! Where do we go from here?

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