Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 21, 2016

Negotiating language status in multilingual jurisdictions: Rhetoric and reality

Janny HC Leung
From the journal Semiotica

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 much 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 one or more particular language communities, the conferring of 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, consists of competing rhetorics advanced by politicians, legal professionals, and campaign groups, and to this extent politics permeates both the promotion and presentation of legal multilingualism, despite reluctance among legal policy makers to engage directly with this aspect of the process. This article situates legal multilingualism within a wider understanding of multilingualism and language policy. It first surveys status labels assigned to languages in multilingual jurisdictions. It then compares, across jurisdictions, rhetorical strategies deployed in promoting and opposing specific proposals about language status, in both official and public discourses, and analyses contradictions and dilemmas embedded in them. The argument extends [Rhetoric as jurisprudence: An introduction to the politics of legal language. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 4(1). 88–122] observation that legal discourse is pre-eminently a discourse of power. But if use of legal language is political, it is suggested, then the processes of negotiation which establish a language for such use are even more so.

Funding statement: Funding: This research (code HKU 747812H) has been generously supported by the RGC General Research Fund.

Acknowledgement

The author would also like to thank Professor Alan Durant, Professor Malcolm Coulthard, Professor Christopher Hutton, and Dr. Frederick Blumberg for their constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. Part of this paper has been presented in a Regional Conference of the International Association of Forensic Linguistics (Kuala Lumpur, 2012).

References

Abdelhay, A. K., B. Makoni & S. B. Makoni. 2011. The Naivasha language policy: The language of politics and the politics of language in the Sudan. Language Policy 10(1). 1–18.10.1007/s10993-011-9192-9Search in Google Scholar

Ahuja, A. 2011. Analysis: As Thais vote, a struggle with education. Reuters, 30 May. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/30/us-thailand-education-idUSTRE74T0NV20110530 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Ammon, U. 2006. Language conflicts in the European Union: On finding a politically acceptable and practicable solution for EU institutions that satisfies diverging interests. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 16(3). 319–338.10.1111/j.1473-4192.2006.00121.xSearch in Google Scholar

Azzat, F. 2001. The language of the court. Malaysiakini.com, 3 July. http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/8743 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Ball, D. 2011. Swiss effort to save a language opens a rift. Wall Street Journal, 1 September. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903352704576540252076676760.html (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Barr, M. D. & Z. Skrbis. 2008. Constructing Singapore: Elitism, ethnicity, and the nation-building project. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.Search in Google Scholar

Bhatia, V. K. 2010. Interdiscursivity in professional communication. Discourse and Communication 21(1). 32–50.10.1177/1750481309351208Search in Google Scholar

Blackledge, A. 2005. Discourse and power in a multilingual world. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/dapsac.15Search in Google Scholar

Burns, R. P. 2003. Rhetoric in the law. In Walter Jost & Wendy Olmsted (eds.), A companion to rhetoric and rhetorical criticism, 442–456. Malden, MA: Blackwell.10.1111/b.9781405101121.2003.00034.xSearch in Google Scholar

Dacey, J. 2009. Make English an official language, study urges. Swissinfo, 18 February. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Home/Archive/Make_English_an_official_language,_studyurges.html?cid=7224750 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

David, M. K. 2003. Role and functions of code-switching in Malaysian courtrooms. Multilingua 22(1). 5–20.10.1515/mult.2003.005Search in Google Scholar

European Commission Directorate-General for Translation. 2010. Lawmaking in the EU multilingual environment. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Search in Google Scholar

Fettes, Mark. 1998 Life on the edge: Canada’s aboriginal languages under official bilingualism. In Thomas Ricento & Barbara Burnaby (eds.), Language and politics in the United States and Canada, 117–149. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar

Fishman, J. A. 1972. Language in sociocultural change. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Gateraruke, Raymond. 2012. Overview of Rwandan legislative process. Loophole 1. 35–41.Search in Google Scholar

Goldsmith, R. 2011. South Sudan adopts the language of Shakespeare. BBC, 8 October. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15216524 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Goodrich, P. 1987. Legal discourse: Studies in linguistics, rhetoric, and legal analysis. New York: St. Martin’s Press.10.1007/978-1-349-11283-8Search in Google Scholar

Gonzalez, A. 1996. Incongruity between the language of the law and the language of court proceedings: The Philippine experience. Language and Communication 16(3). 229–234.10.1016/0271-5309(96)00012-2Search in Google Scholar

Grin, F. 1998. Language policy in multilingual Switzerland: Overview and recent developments (ECMI briefs 2). Flensburg: European Centre for Minority Issues.Search in Google Scholar

Hashimoto, K. 2002. Implications of the recommendation that English become the second official language in Japan. In A. Kirkpatrick (ed.) English in Asia: Communication, identity, power, and education, 63–74. Melbourne: Language Australia.Search in Google Scholar

Hornberger, N. H. 2001. Multilingual language policies and the continua of Biliteracy: An ecological approach. Language Policy 1. 27–51.10.21832/9781853596568-018Search in Google Scholar

Justice Findlay. 1999. A view from the bench. Hong Kong Lawyer, August.Search in Google Scholar

Justice System Monitoring Programme. 2011. Overview of the Justice Sector. Justice Facility: A Bilateral Co-operation between the Governments of Timor-Leste and Australia 2008–2013.Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M. & R. Wodak. 2011. Political strategies and language policies: the European Union Lisbon strategy and its implications for the EU’s language and multilingualism policy. Language Policy 10. 115–136.10.1007/s10993-011-9196-5Search in Google Scholar

Kukathas, C. 2003. The liberal archipelago: A theory of diversity and freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/019925754X.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Kukathas, C. 2002. Equality and diversity. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 1. 185–212.10.1177/1470594X02001002002Search in Google Scholar

Kymlicka, W. 2002. Contemporary political philosophy: An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/hepl/9780198782742.003.0001Search in Google Scholar

Lee, K.Y. 2011. Speech given at the Launch of the English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS) on 6 September. http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2011/09/06/speech-by-mr-lee-kuan-yew-at-elis-launch.php (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Lee, S. 2008. The national language in the courts. http://shih.blogspot.hk/2008/04/national-language-in-courts.html (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Leung, J. 2012. Statutory interpretation in multilingual jurisdictions: Typology and trends. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 33(5). 481–495.10.1080/01434632.2012.680462Search in Google Scholar

Leung, J. 2013. Cross-jurisdiction appropriation of the equal authenticity principle. Journal of Legal Pluralism 45(2). 209–226.10.1080/07329113.2013.772463Search in Google Scholar

Leung, J. Forthcoming. Multilingual legal order. New York: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Leybold-Johnson, I. 2006a. Controversy rages over standardised Romansh. Swissinfo, 8 August. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/specials/romansh/Controversy_rages_over_standardised_Romansh.html?cid=41074 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Leybold-Johnson, I. 2006b. Official Romansh still has some way to go. Swissinfo, 8 August. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/specials/romansh/Official_Romansh_still_has_some_way_to_go.html?cid=41072 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Lim, L., A. Pakir & L. Wee.2010. English in Singapore: Policies and prospects. In Lisa Lim, Anne Pakir & Lionel Wee (eds.), English in Singapore: Modernity and management, 3–18. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.10.5790/hongkong/9789888028436.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Lucini, D. 2004. Romansh row inspires strong language. Swissinfo, 6 October. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Home/Archive/Romansh_row_inspires_strong_language.html?cid=4132548 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Macalister, J. 2012. Language policies, language planning, and linguistic landscapes in Timor-Leste. Language Problems and Language Planning 36(1). 25–45.10.1075/lplp.36.1.02macSearch in Google Scholar

Maceda, T.G. 2003. The Filipino national language: Discourse on power. In K. L. Adams et al. (eds.), Papers from the seventh annual meeting of the southeast Asian linguistics society, 99–108. Tempe: Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies.Search in Google Scholar

Mazrui, A. A. & A. M. Mazrui. 1998. The power of Babel: Language and governance in the African experience. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Search in Google Scholar

McRae, K. D. 1983. Conflict and compromise in multilingual societies: Switzerland. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Mesthrie, R. 2002. South Africa: A sociolinguistic overview. In R. Masthrie (ed.), Language in South Africa, 11–26. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511486692.002Search in Google Scholar

Monsanto, S. L. 2009. But Tagalog is Greek in Visayas, Mindanao. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 October. http://article.wn.com/view/2009/10/04/But_Tagalog_is_Greek_in_Visayas_Mindanao/ (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Morrison, K. & I. Lui. 2000. Ideology, linguistic capital, and the medium of instruction in Hong Kong. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 21(6). 471–486.10.1080/01434630008666418Search in Google Scholar

Ng, K. H. 2009. The common law in two voices. Stanford: Stanford University Press.10.1515/9780804772358Search in Google Scholar

Ó Gairbhí, S. T. 2013. Let’s not lose our native tongue in outer space. Irish Times, 21 February. http://www.irishtimes.com/debate/let-s-not-lose-our-native-tongue-in-outer-space-1.1313679 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. 2010. Official languages at the heart of our identity: An overview of the official languages act. Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.Search in Google Scholar

Phillipson, R. 1992. Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Powell, R. 2004. Terminological creation and language shift in Malaysia’s legal system. Current Issues in Language Planning 5(2). 109–130.10.1080/13683500408668252Search in Google Scholar

Rappa, A. L. & L. Wee. 2006. Language policy and modernity in Southeast Asia. New York: Springer.10.1007/0-387-32186-1Search in Google Scholar

Riendeau, R. 2007. A brief history of Canada, 2nd edn. New York: Infobase.Search in Google Scholar

Romaine, S. 2013. Politics and policies of promoting multilingualism in the European Union. Language Policy 12. 115–137.10.1007/s10993-013-9277-8Search in Google Scholar

Rubrico, J. G. 2001. The metamorphosis of Filipino as national language. Philippine Daily, 28 August. http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/essays_on_philippine_languages.htm (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Safran, W. 2004. Introduction: The political aspects of language. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 10(1). 1–14.10.1080/13537110490450746Search in Google Scholar

Schiffman, H. F. 1996. Linguistic culture and language policy. London & New York: Routledge.10.4324/9780203273487Search in Google Scholar

Schmitt, N. 2005. Swiss confederation. In J. Kincaid & G. A. Tarr (eds.), A global dialogue on federalism: Constitutional origins, structure, and change in federal countries, 347–380. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Schmitt, N. n.d. Switzerland. Forum of federations and international association of centers for federal studies. http://www.thomasfleiner.ch/files/categories/IntensivkursII/Switzerlandg1.pdf (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Shelton, D. 1997. Reconcilable differences: The interpretation of multilingual treaties. Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 20. 611–638.Search in Google Scholar

Singapore Department of Statistics. 2010. Census of population 2010 advance census release. http://www.singstat.gov.sg/publications/publications-and-papers/population/census10_adr (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Song, J. J. 2011. English as an official language in South Korea: Global English or social malady? Language Problems & Language Planning 35(1). 35–55.10.1075/lplp.35.1.03sonSearch in Google Scholar

Svartvik, J. & G. N. Leech. 2006. English: One tongue, many voices. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1057/9780230596160Search in Google Scholar

Tiersma, P. M. 1999. Legal language. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Tolbert, K. 2003. English could become Japan’s official second language. The Guardian, 23 February 2000. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2000/feb/23/tefl1 (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

T. P. 2011. The language holding Malays, Tamils, and Chinese together. Economist, 2 January. http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2011/01/Singapore (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages. 2003. Language vitality and endangerment. http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/doc/src/00120-EN.pdf (accessed 2 December 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Warhol, L. 2012. Creating official language policy from local practice: The example of the Native American Languages Act 1990/1992. Language Policy 11. 235–252.10.1007/s10993-012-9248-5Search in Google Scholar

Yoo, O. K. 2005. Discourses of English as an official language in a monolingual society: The case of South Korea. Second Language Studies 23(2). 1–44.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-1-21
Published in Print: 2016-3-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

Scroll Up Arrow