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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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INTERMEZZO 5: Crystal-clear darkness

Jan M. Broekman


A Western language that solves the problem of uttering alter’s presence by means of uttering Groundwords would no longer place the conjunctive between “I” and “You” and thus formulate: “IYou will phone you tonight” or “IYou hope YouI answer MeHim/MeHer soon.” Language as communication is important again: its expressivity makes clear that in the case of the Groundword there is always a copresence at stake, such as between You and Me or You and Her, Them and Us, and so on. Grammar needs to be reshaped, we (re)think, and will provide a language in which power positions are no longer in effect. Is that possible, is that enough? Indeed: it comes near, yes, very near to what the #MeToo movement expresses on our smartphone, but those forms of expression do not relate to analog languages. Here is an important component of Buber’s answer to the question regarding alter’s presence: the problem is wider than any analog language expression can envisage!

A Groundword has conditional meaning levels, which must be given second thought. The concentration on “word” excludes the specific place and function of the word in language in its totality. That is one of the reasons of Searle’s misstep when he interprets the “speech act”—he by no means treats the word metaphorically while proposing the term “speech act.” We should ask him: what type of language is at stake when the word is isolated as a basic element of speech or of language as...

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