The Limitations of a Multilingual Legal System

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the way in which it works can be seen as a microcosm of how a multilingual, multicultural supranationalisation process and legal order can be constructed—the Court is a microcosm of the EU as a whole and in particular of EU law. The multilingual jurisprudence produced by the CJEU is necessarily shaped by the dynamics within that institution and by the ‘cultural compromises’ at play in the production process. The resultant texts, which make up that jurisprudence, are hybrid in nature and inherently approximate. On the one hand, that approximation can lead to discrepancies between language versions of the Court’s case law and thus jeopardise the uniform application of EU law. On the other hand, that approximation and hybridity define EU law as a distinct, supranational legal order. This paper analyses the operation of the CJEU and considers whether a linguistic cultural compromise exists within that institution which exercises a formative influence on the character of its ‘output’—i.e. its jurisprudence—and what that may mean for our understanding of the development of EU law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-882
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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