The Law and Language Research Group was formed in September 2017 to provide a forum in which colleagues can develop research and new ways of thinking about the relationship between language and law, broadly understood.  It supports work on any issue of language, translation, legal meaning and their impacts on the law. 

The field of law and language is inherently interdisciplinary, and the relationship between language and law is increasingly coming to the fore in our globalised world. Practitioners as well as researchers are pushing the boundaries of this developing field of legal studies. To date the BLS Law & Language Research Group has held interdisciplinary workshops, including the SLSA conference on law, translation and migration and supported colleagues in planning research projects in the field.  Two large European Research Council funded projects are based in the Group: Law and Language at the European Court of Justice (LLECJ) and The European Union Case Law Corpus (EUCLCORP).  The Group supports and encourages collaboration and is open to anybody with an intellectual interest in the relationship between law and language.

Our Primary Areas of Interest:

Legal Translation

  • Karen McAuliffe’s work investigates the role of translation and translators in producing multilingual law
  • Sophie Boyron is interested in the intersection of comparative law and translation and in particular on the impact that translation can have on the migration of constitutional concepts.

Law and the Philosophy of Language

  • Sean Coyle’s work investigates the ‘thinking behind’ specific word choices in sources on natural law (principally Francisco Suarez, Aquinas and Hugo Grotius)
  • Karen McAuliffe is developing a theory of linguistic precedent based on concepts borrowed from linguistic theory
  • Gavin Byrne’s research considers law and hermeneutics from an analytical philosophy of language perspective

Law and Language in International Law and Institutions

  • Karen McAuliffe’s work focuses on the relationship between law and language in the production of case law by the Court of Justice of the European Union.  She has also done work on the European Parliament and Commission and frequently presents her work at these institutions.

The Relationship between Law, Language and Translation in the EU Legal Order

  • Karen McAuliffe’s principal area of research focuses on the relationship between law, language and translation in the EU legal order.
  • Anthony Arnull’s research interests in multilingual adjudication focus in particular on the Court of Justice of the European Union
  • Aleksandra Cavoski’s research investigates the challenges of legal translation in EU accession states.  

Semiotics of Law

  • Chen Zhu’s research in intellectual property investigates the semiotic analysis of trade marks and brands

Forensic Linguistics

  • Jack Grieve conducts research on authorship attribution and consults on casework as a forensic linguist

Feminist Legal Language

  • Mairead Enright…

Law, Language and Politics

  • Gavin Byrne’s work focuses on the writings of Theodor Adorno, the jargon of Nazism and the rise of the new right in contemporary law and politics

Language and Intellectual Property

  • Chen Zhu researches free and open source software licensing, the legal construction of authorship, digital humanities’ implications on copyright law as well as the semiotic analysis of trademarks and brands.

Other regular group activities:

Work in Progress Sessions

Our main activities currently revolve around ‘work in progress’ sessions, in which colleagues present projects at various stages of completion, from initial ideas through to project plans and draft papers.  The sessions are flexible in structure but usually focus on one project for presentation and substantive discussion, followed by a general discussion of other projects/ideas on which group members are working.  Through this format the group aims to provide a supportive space in which colleagues can develop ideas for collaborative projects, papers and grant applications.

Virtual Space

In addition to those sessions, the group also has a virtual ‘space’ which houses various resources including corpora, databases, and recent research in the field of law and language as well as a space to which colleagues can upload their own work in progress for the group to read and comment on.

For any enquiries about our activities please contact Karen McAuliffe:

Major group events or activities or news: 


21 September 2017: SLSA Seminar on Law, Translation and Migration: an enlightening relationship, organised by Dr Sophie Boyron and Dr Aleksandra Cavoski and funded by the Socio-Legal Studies Association

2 February 2018: ERC Workshop on Precedent in EU Law: The Linguistic Aspect, part of the LLECJ project and funded by the European Research Council

September 2018 (date TBC): ERC Conference on The Advocate General in EU Law: The Linguistic Aspect, part of the LLECJ project and funded by the European Research Council.  This conference will be held at the Robert Schuman Institute for European Affairs in Luxembourg. 

Keynotes and Guest Lectures

18 May 2018: Dr Karen McAuliffe will deliver a guest lecture on the production of multilingual law by the Court of Justice of the European Union at the Robert Schuman Institute for European Affairs in Luxembourg.

18 – 20 of June 2018: Dr Karen McAuliffe will deliver a keynote lecture on the relationship between law, language and translation in European Union law at the Transius Conference, Geneva. 

Funded Projects

European Research Council Starting Grant: Law and Language at the European Court of Justice (LLECJ)

This project examines the production of the multilingual jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  It is generally accepted that the development of a rule of law within the EU is due in a large part to the judicial pronouncements of that Court.  Based on the theoretical assumption that a linguistically ‘hybrid’ community, such as that of the ECJ, functions primarily through language interplays, negotiations and exchanges; and that the ‘process’ within any institution will necessarily affect its ‘output’, the development of an EU rule of law will necessarily be affected by the artificial and hybrid language of the ECJ.  The project is situated on the threshold between legal anthropology, linguistic theories and linguistic semiotics.  EU law, and in particular the jurisprudence of the ECJ, is coded in language, and the concepts that are used to construct that law are accessible only through language.  In this project, by clarifying the ways in which language plays a key role in determining judicial outcomes, I aim to challenge EU scholarship to look beyond more conventional approaches to the development of a rule of law which draw on law alone.

Details of the research and events taking place as part of this project can be found on the project website:

Follow the project on Twitter: @ERC_LLECJ

European Research Council Proof of Concept Grant: European Union Case Law Corpus (EUCLCORP)

During the course of research on the ERC-funded ‘Law and Language at the European Court of Justice (ECJ)’ project, a gap in the resources currently available to analyse the case law of that court became apparent.  First, while many excellent multilingual databases relating to EU law exist, there is currently no resource that allows users of EU law easily and comprehensively to compare the meanings of legal terms across EU languages and member state legal systems.  Secondly, while the influence of the ECJ on national member state law is well-documented, influence also flows in the other direction: from member state to EU law level.  The special connection between ECJ and national courts allows legal terms and concepts to migrate in both directions but currently there is no resource which allows users of EU law to track the migration of such terms and concepts.

The EUCLCORP project will develop and test an innovative corpus, which will aim to address that gap by providing a resource that allows users of law to investigate in a systematic way:

  • The history of the meaning(s) of a particular legal term
  • In the case of an ambiguous term – the sense in which it is most frequently used
  • The influence of national legal languages on EU case law (and vice versa)
  • The impact of translation on the development of EU case law

The EUCLCORP project will run from July 2016 until December 2017.  The project brings together the fields of law and linguistics and will demonstrate the use of corpus linguistics research methods both in the field of legal scholarship and in practical terms in the legal arena.

EUCLCORP will be a standardized, multidimensional and multilingual corpus of the case law of the ECJ and of the constitutional/supreme courts of EU member states.  Unlike databases, in which users can carry out only relatively straightforward searches, for the occurrence of specific terms or keywords, corpora allow users to search and track how particular linguistic expressions and features are used in context.  The corpus will be coded linguistically and with metadata to enable stakeholders such as lawyers, legal translators, lexicographers and linguists, as well as academics to compare meanings of terms across languages and legal systems, to compare translation options and monitor the consistency of translation in EU case law.  Furthermore EUCLCORP will allow users to track the migration of terms between legal systems and to create data-driven legal dictionaries and terminological databases.  No such corpus currently exists.  By adding to the big data currently available in legal databases, EUCLCORP aims to contribute to a better understanding of EU law and of the Europeanisation of law as well as improved administration of justice.

Recent Publications

  • Karen McAuliffe (with Aleksandar Trklja) ‘Superdiversity and the Relationship between Law, Language and Translation in a Supranational Legal Order’ in Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity (forthcoming 2018)
  • Karen McAuliffe ‘Behind the Scenes at the European Court of Justice: Drafting EU Law Stories’ in Fernanda Nicola and Bill Davies (eds) EU Law Stories: Contextual and Critical Histories of European Jurisprudence (CUP 2017)