2-3-4 March: David Best on Law & Language

Dear all,

welcome to the Law and the Humanities course 2016! As you know, we have started with the first lecture on Law & Language by Prof. David Best. You can find below information about the classes and David Best’s CV. Materials will be uploaded on moodle very soon. We will keep you updated!



From the Origins of Legal English to the Untranslatability of European Legislation:

A Linguistic Journey from St Augustine to a New EU [f]Lexicon


The three seminars will take an interactive and interdisciplinary format, dealing in the first place with an overview of the History of the English Language. We will look at the evolution of Englishes, particularly from the time of Saint Augustine (“Apostle of the English”), who would graft Latin onto the pagan Celtic tongues of Britain, via his Christianising mission on the orders of the Roman Pope Gregory (the Great). We are then taken through Germanic-Saxon and Viking linguistic contamination, up to the Conquest of William, of the Normans, who would bring in so many tens of thousands of French words, up to the postcolonial pot-pourri which is Modern English. In relation to Legal English, we will explore how the above historical trends led the creation of a “Legal English” filled with Latin and French, up to a period when English Law would finally be conducted in the English language thanks largely to the development of one field, Commercial Law, following the age of exploration, colonialism and the new dominance of world trade.

The subsequent seminars are closely related: first, the theme of Equivalence or not, which will look at the conundrum of Untranslatability in EU legal documents, where the need for distinction in concepts and terms at the level of EU legislation, above national jurisdictions, means that it is almost a necessity to halt the search for equivalence or agreement between legal terms and expressions, hence concepts, in different member-state languages. And second, the question of Naming things, Changes in meaning and New EU lexicon, will deal with terminology and the requirement for constant renewal among lexical items in EU legal language. We will look at some specific EU policy areas to see from whence terms come, why/how they are adopted and ushered into every-day use, and the problems they cause drafters, policy-makers, members of the public and other end-users.

As an appendix to the seminars, we will set up a practical assignment (to be continued after the course) in the form of a Case study of a judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights, in EN and concerning an EN-speaking jurisdiction. We will have the opportunity to carry out a parallel analysis of Legal terminology in several language versions and engage in the drafting of a Case note to summarise the judgment, following standard Br. EN drafting criteria. This activity will ensure a consolidation of legal terminology while practising analysis of some legal aspects of the case with reasoning, in English, on the application of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.


CV / Short Biography of contributor:

David Albert BEST holds a BA in European Studies, Languages and Literatures (1999) and a PhD in Italian Literature (2008), both from University College Cork, Ireland. He has lectured on Italian language, literature and cultural studies (2003-09) at University College Cork, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Dublin Trinity College, and on English language and translation (2009-2011) at the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. In 2010 he interned, in a political advisory/ research capacity, at the EU Committee of the Regions in Brussels. Since 2011, he has been Maître de conférences at the Faculty of Law and Criminology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches English for Law and European Studies.

He is active in practical translation projects and the organisation of study visits/seminars between the University and the Brussels institutions, as well as researching on EU Legal Translation, EU Terminology studies, and Italian socio-literary studies. Since 2013, he has been a member of EULETA (European Legal English Teachers’ Association) and in 2015 was nominated the Association’s Country Representative for Belgium. He is a member of EULETA’s Education Committee as well as a promoter of its upcoming E-journal, of which he is one of the co-editors. He has published a monograph on the Italian writers Fabio Tombari and Paolo Volponi (Ancona University Press, 2010), and several articles on other modern and contemporary Italian authors, as well as on EU Translation/Terminology.


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