law and language at the european court of justice, european research council
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Dr Karen McAuliffe, PI on the European Research Council funded project ‘Law and Language at the European Court of Justice’, summarises the main findings and considers the impact it may have on the field of law and language studies

This is the final article in a five-part series focusing on the ERC-funded project ‘Law and Language at the European Court of Justice’ (the LLECJ Project) – read the previous articles here. This article sets summarises the project, its key findings, and considers what the project brings to Law and Language scholarship more generally.

The LLECJ project pursued ambitious research questions relating to elaborating a new understanding of EU law. By examining the process behind the production of the multilingual jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and analysing the relationship between law, language and translation in that jurisprudence, using methodological tools from diverse academic fields, the project has introduced a new facet to the thinking on the development of the EU legal order.

law and language at the european court of justice, european research council
17 January 2016 – Dr Karen McAuliffe at Birmingham University, UK. Portrait for use by Dr Karen McAuliffe for professional reasons only as licensed under the terms and conditions agreed. Any third party use prohibited without the permission of the copyright owner, Laura Jane Dale. ©Laura Jane Dale +44 (0) 7917152382

The project was divided into three inter-connected subprojects: the first investigated the nature and limitations of a multilingual legal order by analysing the process behind the production of the CJEU’s jurisprudence; the second analysed the development of a de facto precedent in CJEU judgments; and the third explored the significance of language for the role of the Advocate General (AG) at the CJEU.

Key findings of the project include:

CJEU case law is multi-layered and multi-authored. The linguistically hybrid community of the CJEU functions primarily through language interplays, negotiations and exchanges, and the processes within that court necessarily affect its output, i.e. its case law.

EU law functions by way of a linguistic cultural compromise, of two elements:

  1. That by which CJEU case law is created
  2. That by which that law is filtered out to the wider EU through translation

Language, multilingualism and translation affect the development of de facto precedent in CJEU case law: the theory of linguistic precedent.

AG’s opinions can be considered multi-authored and multi-layered documents, for which the relevant AG takes ultimate responsibility. Similar to CJEU judgments, certain opinions comprise ‘linguistic layers’ of hidden translation, highlighting the impact that the CJEU’s internal institutional language has beyond its case law.

Multilingualism is not an accidental property of EU law, but is in fact a force that has an impact on the very nature of that law.

The LLECJ project brought forward new research questions, new methods and new empirical material to the study of the CJEU. The project has also developed new methodologies for researching EU law and other fields. In addition, new theories that contribute to our understanding of EU law and the expansion of the field of law and language more generally have been elaborated, as well as theories that go beyond both EU law and law and language research (including a new theoretical framework for the theory of superdiversity1, and a new corpus-based model for studying discourse relations of texts1). The project has also generated big data resources, which are available for further research.

A key element of the LLECJ project was its interdisciplinary nature. It extends a challenge to EU law scholarship to draw on other disciplines in order to fully understand the development of a rule of law in the EU. Furthermore, it challenges disciplines outside of EU law to embrace interdisciplinarity in order to produce impactful research. Opening up opportunities for research across different disciplines in this way can have an impact on how EU law is understood, created and applied, while also building and strengthening the field of law and language study.

The interdisciplinary nature of the project has, however, also presented challenges. Analysing the text of judgments from the basis of linguistics theory is very different from analysing the same text from a legal angle. Furthermore, it is often very difficult to present findings to diverse audiences.

Overall, the LLECJ project has led to the development of new methodologies, theories and findings that have implications not only for understanding EU law at a meta-level, but also
for the practical application of EU law across member states. Moving forward we aim to find a way to unite the diverse analyses performed in the LLECJ project, so that they can transcend disciplines, thus highlighting the impact that law and language scholarship can have across various fields.

For more information on the LLECJ Project, including various project outputs, see:

1 McAuliffe, K and Trklja, A (2019) “Formulaic Metadiscursive Signalling Devices in Judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union: a new corpus-based model for studying discourse relations of texts” International Journal of Speech, Language and Law 26(1).


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