November 23, 2016

Leung on Negotiating Language Status in Multilingual Jurisdictions

Janny H. C. Leung, University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Arts, School of English, has published Negotiating Language Status in Multilingual Jurisdictions: Rhetoric and Reality at 209 Semiotica 371 (2016). Here is the abstract.
About a quarter of legal jurisdictions in the world operate in more than one language. Despite this, language policies governing the functioning of law in such jurisdictions, other than in the European Union, rarely receive attention in research. Given, however, that the policy contrast between legal monolingualism and multilingualism is often a matter of strategic response to the rising or declining power of particular language communities, the conferring legal authority on some language(s) but not others calls for analysis. Advocacy and justification surrounding potential or actual change of legal language, for example, consist of competing rhetorics advanced by politicians, legal professionals, and campaign groups, and in this way politics permeates both the promotion and presentation of legal multilingualism, despite reluctance among legal policy makers to engage with this aspect of the process. This article situates legal multilingualism within a wider understanding of multilingualism and language policy. It compares rhetorics of advocacy and justification used across jurisdictions, and analyses contradictions and dilemmas in rhetorics deployed both in promoting and opposing specific proposals. The argument extends Goodrich’s (1984) observation that legal discourse is pre-eminently a discourse of power. But if use of legal language is political, it is suggested, then the process of selecting a language for such use is even more so.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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