Journée d'Études "Law and Language"

with Jan Engberg (Aarhus), Werner Gephart (Bonn), Isolde Burr-Haase (Cologne), Anne Lise Kjær (Copenhagen), Karen McAuliffe (Birmingham/Luxembourg), Lawrence M. Solan (New York) and Theresa Maria Strombach (Bonn)

Analyzing the relationship between language and law can be fruitful from both a legal and linguistic point of view, as modern law addresses its audience through linguistic form, and language refers to normative orders that do not always results in a state of ‘orthodox orthography’ (Rechtschreibstaat, Isensee). For judicial work, one hopes that legal linguistics will provide clarification on the process of interpretation, with the risk of falling under hermeneutic universal suspicion. From a linguistic perspective, the fear of seeing oneself as subjected to the law’s regulatory authority, which disregards the lively development of the law, is not unfounded. This tension should not just be negotiated abstractly, but rather discussed with outstanding representatives of legal linguistics. 

For the Käte Hamburger Center, the question arises whether the “Law as Culture Paradigma”, which was developed here, casts a new light on basic questions of law and language. Werner Gephart will first address this in his introductory contribution, while Jan Engberg will subsequently pursue the fundamental question of how jurisprudence, sometimes caught in its own terminology and reflective technical language, can convey itself to an audience not solely comprised of people with legal training. In doing so, he will draw upon experiences from Scandinavian legal cultures. In a following round of discussion, we will turn towards problems of interpreting the law in Europe. Does, for example, the alleged universalism of human rights already fail because the translation of the Charta of Human Rights is marked with flaws of particularistic translation needs (Isolde Burr-Haase)? What can be made of patterns of efficiency that are used in the case law of the European Court of Justice (Anne Lise Kjaer)? And how is the necessity for translation into the languages of EU Member States, who constitute a legal community but not a linguistic community, actually fulfilled (Karen McAuliffe)? We will also remain inside Europe when a criminal justice system (in Germany and Switzerland) is compared with another on the basis of linguistic criteria, namely according to the pattern of their respective conditional structures. Do we thereby likewise learn something about the differences between the respective cultures of criminal law and liability (Theresa Strombach)?

Lastly, we look forward to having Lawrence Solan from the Brooklyn Law School share with us his many years of experience as both a renowned linguist and jurist and thus his insight into the status of legal linguistics in the United States and Europe.

Further information can be found in the invitation card.
We look forward to receiving your registration by email (kspranz (at)