Anne Lise Kjær – University of Copenhagen

RELINE - Legal Linguistics Network
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RELINE - Legal Linguistics Network > Steering committee > Anne Lise Kjær

Anne Lise Kjær

Professor of Law, PhD, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

I am an associate professor of Legal Linguistics at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, and initiator of RELINE. I work mainly with the role of language, translation and discourse in European legal integration and am especially concerned with the possibility of developing autonomous, transnational legal concepts. I am also interested in the following topics: language in the legal process, intelligibility of legal language, the symbolic power of the language of law, language policy and linguistic human rights.

In my ongoing research on legal integration it is my ambition to develop a cross-disciplinary methodology that combines theories of language, discourse, culture, and law. My starting point, which forms my own professional background, is language and translation studies, and from this point of departure I move into the scientific no-man's land existing between the disciplines of linguistics, law, and the social sciences. I believe that better explanations are achieved when one’s preconceived notions are challenged by other professional outlooks. Linguists tend to conceive language as the predominant factor of all legal activities, while many lawyers dismiss language as a rather useless starting point of legal interpretation. The truth probably lies in between: On the one hand, law cannot be reduced to a special way of using language; on the other hand, law cannot be separated from the language in which it is practiced. Theoretically, I draw especially on the hermeneutics of Gadamer and Ricour, and on the analytic philosophy of Wittgenstein II.

In more general terms, I find the field of legal linguistics fascinating for a number of reasons that have to do with the fundamental characteristics of legal language: Firstly, I am fascinated by the exclusive and excluding nature of legal language, by the inherent paradox that in order to fulfill its diverse functions in society, within legal institutions and among legal professionals, legal language diverges from ordinary language to such an extent that it becomes inaccessible to lawyers, who are trained in other legal cultures, and unintelligible to lay persons - even though they are expected and required to know the law. Secondly, I think that legal concepts are exciting because they are both stable and variable, have a long history and are constantly changing. Thirdly, I am intrigued by the interesting tensions between the beauty and ugliness of legal language: the accuracy of texts and concepts that can easily degenerate into stilted legalese; the elegant vagueness of legal statutes, contracts and judgments that provides a compromise, but also often deliberately blurs a disagreement or conceals an objective that is not suitable for being stated too clearly; the winning rhetoric that promotes a case, but trumps another; the persuading argument, which does not distinguish between good and bad purposes, routine formulas and repetitions, which are meant to guarantee legal certainty and equality before the law, but at the same time dehumanize the legal system and relieve the judge of personal responsibility.