Research Seminar - Professor William Twining, Quain Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus, UCL: Professor of Law, University of Warwick 1972-82
'Project on Linguistic diversity and social injustice in relation to Law'
At the Law and Development Conference at Warwick in 2016 I suggested a possible Warwick-based project relating to the above:
‘This project has grown out of a general concern about ‘problems of law in multi-lingual societies’. Various attempts to hold workshops and sessions at major conferences petered out, not for lack of interest, but because the label had diverse associations for both jurists and scholars of linguistics. For example, in one conference papers included difficulties of translation of legislation; the training of court interpreters; language rights; the hermeneutic problem , the politics of language change-overs; the survival of endangered languages; the role of law, language and culture.... and so on. These just did not hang together to make one or two coherent books. The label ‘Law and language’ is even more diverse. Recently, talk of ‘Linguistic justice’ or more appropriately in my view, ‘language diversity and social injustice’ have become quite fashionable in socio-lingiustics. Two stimulating general books have been published in this area by OUP: P. van Parijs, and Ingred Pilar, Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World (2011), and Ingred Pilar, Linguistic Diversity and Social Injustice (2016). Unfortunately, they hardly deal directly with law. There is an emerging sub-discipline called Forensic linguistics, but at first sight this is fragmented in much the same way as discussions of ‘law and language’ and ‘law in multi-lingual societies’. So there is a gap. My personal view is that ‘linguistic injustices’ will work better as an organizing category.’
In relation to this I have formulated a very crude general hypothesis viz. that over half of humankind does not have a working knowledge of the ‘official’ or operative language(s) of the state legal system under which they live. With a Socio-linguist from Cardiff, who is interested in ‘official languages’ (Diarmait Mac Giolla Chriost) Abdul and I have been discussing a possible pilot project in Kenya and/or Tanzania in order to refine and apply the hypothesis and get a handle on the ‘real world’ problems as a preliminary to something more ambitious. Our interest is mainly on practical issues about where the shoe pinches, especially in relation to national language policies. We are aware that it is artificial to limit this to state law, but it may be the easiest place to start.
We had hoped to hold a seminar on 22nd Nov. to discuss this, with myself talking about conceptual difficulties (languages, working knowledge, operative languages etc), Abdul suggesting how a manageable pilot project might be designed, and Diarmait bringing his expertise to bear. Unfortunately, the other two cannot make it on the 22nd , so we are not able make a proper presentation. But, as this is not the first time such an occasion has been delayed, we felt that it would be useful for me, while in Warwick, to meet informally with knowledgeable and/or potentially interested people to get some ideas and advice and, we hope, some expressions of interest.