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French, English, Amharic: the law in Ethiopia

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Abstract:

The language of the law is difficult to translate because words or expressions in a particular language often carry concepts that do not exist in another. In this respect, the dissimilarity between French and English laws is striking. The difficulties further increase when either of these two legal systems – or both – is used as a basis for yet another system which adheres to its own legal traditions. Ethiopia is a particularly good example of such a thorny problem. In the 1950s Emperor Haile Selassie undertook a thorough reform of the legal system. At the time, little thought seems to have been given to the confusion likely to result from the introduction of the French approach into the existing Ethiopian system. The interpretation of these antiquated codes is proving increasingly difficult because law practitioners cannot access French sources. In this particular case, language is shown to be a key factor in the understanding and correct use of the law.

Keywords: AMHARIC; ENGLISH; FRENCH; LAW

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/jrs.2009.090201

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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