Word Meaning and the Problem of a Globalized Legal Order

Jan Engberg

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Word Meaning and the Problem of a Globalized Legal Order

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Semantics


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Globalization is a central condition in the life of people and companies of today. With it comes the call for some type of globalization of legal orders, especially in the field of business. Two criteria for measuring efforts to establish an international legal order are the degree of institutionalization and the position of a legal regime to multilingualism. This article explores the way we conceptualize the meaning of words in the context of a globalized, supranational legal order. The discussion begins with an overview of the impact of language, and especially of word meaning, on the problems arising in a globalized legal order, and then outlines different approaches to the description of word meaning in (multilingual) multinational law, together with their different takes on the problem. The article also considers legal terms as signs, decisive factors for ascribing the interpretant, proponents of a strong language theory, proponents of weak language theory, attempts to develop an official common European civil code, and model laws.

Keywords: word meaning; legal order; globalization; civil code; model laws; weak language theory; strong language theory; multinational law; legal terms; multilingualism

Article.  5331 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Semantics

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