The Limitations of a Multilingual Legal System

30 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2015

See all articles by Karen McAuliffe

Karen McAuliffe

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School; Université du Luxembourg

Date Written: April 15, 2013


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.

Keywords: Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), ECJ, EU law, Multilingual law, Law and language, Jurilinguistics, Legal translation, Cultural compromise, Hybrid texts, Translators, Legal drafting

Suggested Citation

McAuliffe, Karen, The Limitations of a Multilingual Legal System (April 15, 2013). International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Karen McAuliffe (Contact Author)

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School ( email )

Birmingham, AL B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Université du Luxembourg ( email )

L-1511 Luxembourg

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