Translating Ambiguity

Journal of Comparative Law Volume 9 No.2

32 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2015

See all articles by Karen McAuliffe

Karen McAuliffe

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School; Université du Luxembourg

Date Written: December 1, 2014


The object of this paper is to demonstrate that language plays a key role in the development of a unique method of reasoning used by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which has impacted on the development of EU law. In order to understand how EU law is made, how it is received in the member states and how it works therein, one needs an understanding of different legal orders, some from very different legal families, and the ways in which they interact with the supranational normative order which is EU law. The study and analysis of EU law is, therefore, at some level comparative law. However, the range of tools provided by comparative law, and by legal studies generally, is necessarily somewhat limited. In order to achieve a more holistic and nuanced understanding of the topic, one therefore also needs to use the tools provided by other disciplines. This paper approaches the study of EU law through the lens of the CJEU’s multilingual ‘jurisprudence’ (case law). To fully understand that jurisprudence one needs to take account of the linguistic and cultural compromises involved in its making. The only way to fully investigate the role played by language in the development of EU law is through interdisciplinary research. Borrowing methodological tools from disciplines outside of law allows us to gain an in-depth understanding of how the multilingual jurisprudence of the CJEU is produced. More specifically, we can investigate the impact that language has on the CJEU’s jurisprudence and the limitations of that jurisprudence.

Keywords: Law and Language, European Court of Justice, CJEU, ECJ, Legal Translation, Multilingual Law

Suggested Citation

McAuliffe, Karen, Translating Ambiguity (December 1, 2014). Journal of Comparative Law Volume 9 No.2, 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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