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Rethinking Law and Language

The Flagship ‘Speech’

Jan M. Broekman

The ‘law-language-law’ theme is deeply engraved in Occidental culture, more so than contemporary studies on the subject currently illustrate. This insightful book creates awareness of these cultural roots and shows how language and themes in law can be richer than studying a simple mutuality of motives. Rethinking Law and Language unveils today’s problems with the two faces of language: the analogue and the digital, on the basis of which our smart phones and Artificial Intelligence create modern life.
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Chapter 3: Von Savigny’s “people”

Jan M. Broekman


The nineteenth-century German jurist von Savigny started his legal, academic, and political career with studies of the Napoleonic Code. He underlined its style, its language, and its reference to the concept of possession (documented as legal property); broadened his studies on Roman law to found legal science (he coined the term “Rechtswissenschaft”); and introduced notions such as “legal sources” and “hermeneutics.” The linguistic dimensions of law and legal science focused on (a) the Speaker position and (b) legal consciousness. The latter idea fits the larger framework of legal semiotics. Consciousness and communication come together in von Savigny’s notion of “the People” (Das Volk), which leads him to widen the traditional understanding of the “subject of law.” That theme has important political implications, for instance regarding when legal notions of social reality should grasp pluralities by means of a single pronoun: an outstanding linguistic issue in law and legal science.

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