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Legal Discourse across Languages and Cultures


Edited By Maurizio Gotti and Christopher John Williams

The chapters constituting this volume focus on legal language seen from cross-cultural perspectives, a topic which brings together two areas of research that have burgeoned in recent years, i.e. legal linguistics and intercultural studies, reflecting the rapidly changing, multifaceted world in which legal institutions and cultural/national identities interact. Within the broad thematic leitmotif of this volume, it has been possible to identify two major strands: legal discourse across languages on the one hand, and legal discourse across cultures on the other. Of course, labels of this kind are adopted partly as a matter of convenience, and it could be argued that any paper dealing with legal discourse across languages inevitably has to do with legal discourse across cultures. But a closer inspection of the papers comprising each of these two strands reveals that there is a coherent logic behind the choice of labels. All seven chapters in the first section are concerned with legal topics where more than one language is at stake, whereas all seven chapters in the second section are concerned with legal topics where cultural differences are brought to the fore.


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Legal Discourse across Languages 21


Legal Discourse across Languages SUSAN ŠAREVI Creating a Pan-European Legal Language 1. Introduction Since the link between language, law and cultural identity is tradition- ally the strongest in private law, it is not surprising that the greatest resistance to the harmonization of European law has been in core areas of private law relating to contract law. In a Communication of 2001,1 the European Commission recognized that the co-existence of different national contract laws hinders the internal market’s ability to function, and for the first time it acknowledged that terminological inconsistency and incoherence in directives and their national trans- posing instruments pose a threat to cross-border transactions. This sparked, among other things, a lively debate among legal scholars on the crucial role of language in the harmonization process and the need for a pan-European legal language as a precondition for greater con- vergence in areas of private law. On the political front, the Commission responded in 2003 with an Action Plan for a more Coherent European Contract Law,2 in which it called on the legal academic community to intensify its on- going research activities with a view to creating a Common Frame of Reference (CFR) which would propose a common terminology and rules in the area of European contract law. In its follow-up Communi- 1 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Par- liament on European Contract Law (OJ C 255 of 13.9.2001). 2 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, ‘An...

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