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Legal Language and the Search for Clarity- Le langage juridique et la quête de clarté

Practice and Tools- Pratiques et Instruments


Edited By Anne Wagner and Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy

This interdisciplinary collection with contributions in English and French explores how the various disciplines of law and linguistics appreciate and work towards improving the nature of clarity and obscurity in legal language. For the first time, it brings together legal academics and practitioners, jurilinguists and linguists from the common law and civil law with the specific aim to understand the complex nature, practice and tools of clarity and obscurity in legal drafting. Topics addressed include how the Clarity framework has been put into practice through the use of plainer language, better comprehensibility, readability and access to legal or administrative texts. In an attempt to reflect the more recent development of the Clarity-Obscurity debate, the editors have also focused on the use of specific instruments to respond to the problems raised by obscurity to improve clarity.
Cette collection interdisciplinaire offrant des contributions en anglais et en français, explore comment les diverses disciplines du droit et de la linguistique appréhendent et visent à perfectionner la nature de la clarté et de l’opacité du discours juridique. Cet ouvrage rassemblant pour la première fois, des universitaires et professionnels du droit, des jurilinguistes et linguistes de la common law and et du droit civil, propose de découvrir la nature complexe, les pratiques et outils de la clarté et de l’opacité utilisés en rédaction juridique. Les questions abordées examinent la mise en pratique de la clarté juridique au travers de l’utilisation de la langue courante, une meilleure lisibilité, compréhensibilité et accès aux textes juridiques et administratifs. Dans le but de refléter l’actualité du débat Clarté-Opacité du discours juridique, les éditrices se sont également concentrées sur l’utilisation des outils et méthodes les plus récents et utilisés pour résoudre les difficultés soulevées par l’opacité des langues du droit et ainsi améliorer la transparence du discours juridique.


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SOPHIE CACCIAGUIDI-FAHY AND ANNE WAGNER Searching for Clarity ‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it just means what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less’. ‘The question is’, said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things’. (Lewis Carroll 1871) 1. Clarity and the law Conventional legal thinking presupposes that a properly trained legal mind can find clarity and certainty in the law by using the devices of syllogistic reasoning and legal precedents with the aid of various legal instruments (constitution, legislative intent…). Yet, recent scholarship has acknowledged that constructing the meaning of legal language is not alone subject to many societal mutations but legal language itself can be slippery, fluid and highly unpredictable (Solan 1993; Nerhot 1993; Tiersma 2000). Clarity at law is customarily equated to certainty. Of late, clarity is acting as an umbrella term for the concepts of plain language, the improvement of legal drafting in public law and simpler, more ordinary use of language in private law. Obscurity on the other hand, often operates as the umbrella term for expressing fuzziness, vagueness, ambiguity and indeterminacy in normative texts. The search for clarity in literary and legal texts can be traced back to the early use of the vernacular languages in mediaeval Europe (Rothwell 1992; Mcdonald 2006). Since the early sixties, the articulation of greater clarity in legal texts is of course associated with the use of 20 Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy and Anne Wagner plainer language,1...

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