Legal culture and language: a study of the linguisticdiscursive aspects of contract law in France, Germany and England from a comparative and historical perspective

01 January 2013 → 31 December 2018
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Law
    • Other law and legal studies
administrative law dimension
Project description

Comparative law has always been a kind of umbrella concept encompassing different
activities with diverse underlying motives and goals and to that extent, methodological
pluralism is part and parcel of comparative law. In the context of approximation/harmonization initiatives (e.g. EU), scholars in comparative contract law have tended to adopt a (not well elaborated) functionalist approach and limited their research to a mainly technical, descriptive and pragmatic level without taking into account a more specifically intercultural dimension. Specific private/contract law issues or rules were compared and contrasted and common principles, definitions and model rules suggested [1] The schemes of intelligibility are relatively restrictive and little attention was paid to the cultural or societal context from which the contract law issues emanate, that is to their function in bilateral terms (in the case of relations between two linguistic/discursive traditions) or in multi-lateral terms (in the case of more complex international frameworks) [2].
So far in the literature, culture has been used as an a priori notion, often abstract or
intuitive. Both in comparative law [3] and in legal sociology [4], the concept of culture is used in this vague way without as much as a research plan or program in relation to proving the assumptions made about the notion of culture. In comparative law literature, some have argued that legal cultures are incommensurable and that, hence, legal harmonization is impossible [5]. The majority of all other comparatists tend to underestimate the influence of culture and assumed that legal cultures represent no obstacle to, for example, a harmonization process.
Within the fields of contrastive linguistics and translation studies little research has
been carried out in the area of translated legal discourse or in relation to reception analysis of original legal texts and their translation. Although research exists on the reception of foreign concepts in different legal cultures, the role of translation in the reception process is only exceptionally examined in the area of law [6]. In other scientific areas reception analysis of concepts through translation is a thriving area of research, especially in the well-established tradition of the Begriffgeschichte or history of concepts [7].