As described in my last post, I listed several examples showing the first type of usage of synonyms – synonyms indicating the same meaning for emphasis. In this article, I will show some examples of the usage of synonyms indicating distinctions, where you may get some help in doing legal translation.
1. domicile / habitual residence
A civil lawsuit brought against a citizen shall be under the jurisdiction of the people’s court in the place where the defendant has his domicile; if the defendant s domicile is different from his habitual residence, the lawsuit shall be under the jurisdiction of the people’s court in the place of his habitual residence.
Literally, these two words have no difference as they both have the meanings of “a place of living”. But as legal concepts, they are totally different. “Domicile” means the state in which a person has or intends to maintain permanent residence, or the state in which a business locates its headquarters. A person may have many residences but only one legal domicile. “Habitual residence” means a place where the individual usually resides and routinely returns to after visiting other places. In conflict law, “habitual residence” is the standard used to determine the law which should be applied to determine a given legal dispute, so this concept is flexible and adaptable to practical requirements where different countries may have different definitions. In China, we define “habitual residence” as a place where the citizen has lived for one consecutive year since he leaves his domicile. As these two words affect the jurisdiction of a court, we must pay much attention to during translation.
2. Swing / carryover / carry forward
Flexibility provisions, i.e., swing ,carryover and carry forward, applicable to all restrictions maintained pursuant to this Article, shall be the same as those provided for MFA bilateral agreement for the 12-month period prior to the entry into force of the WOT Agreement.
按照本条所保持的一切限制的灵活条款（即调用、留用和借用），应与在 WTO 协议生效前的 12 个月期间多种纤维协定项下双边协定的灵活条款相同。
3. Solicit / accept
Any Crown Servant…solicits or accepts any advantages shall be guilty of an offence.
Both words have the meaning of “to receive willingly”, the difference between them is that “solicit” emphasizes the action which tries to get something from someone; to ask for something; to request or entreat; to encourage someone to commit a crime. Thus, the translation“索取”and “收受”is not only accurate, but also professional.
Synonyms are commonly used in the legal documents. The legal professionals use the synonyms with slight differences to express the different meanings from legal aspect. This will make the legal documents look more rigorous and professional. Therefore, when we are translating this kind of documents, try to find out the slight differences and choose the most appropriate words for translation.