Professor Karen McAuliffe

Dr Karen McAuliffe

Birmingham Law School
Professor in Law and Language
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor McAuliffe’s principal area of research focuses on the relationship between law, language and translation in the EU legal order.  By clarifying the ways in which language plays a key role in determining judicial outcomes at the EU level, she challenges EU scholarship to look beyond more conventional approaches to the development of a rule of law that draw on law alone.  Her work is largely empirical, drawing on methodologies from fields such as sociology, anthropology, translation theory and linguistics.  She also draws upon theoretical literature concerning the relationship between law and language and considers the role of translation theory in that relationship within the EU legal order. 

In 2012 Professor McAuliffe was awarded a €1 million European Research Council Starting Grant to complete a significant project on ‘Law and Language at the European Court of Justice.  This research project not only has impact for understanding EU law at a meta-level, but also for the practical application of EU law across member states, and puts forward a new understanding of the development of EU law.  In 2015 she was awarded a further €150,000 Proof of Concept grant from the European Research Council, to develop a standardised, multidimensional and multilingual corpus of the case law of the European Court of Justice and of the constitutional/supreme courts of EU member states.  


  • PhD (The Queen’s University of Belfast)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in European Public Law (European Public Law Academy)
  • LLB in Common and Civil Law with French (The Queen’s University of Belfast and l’Université Catholique de Louvain)


Karen McAuliffe joined Birmingham Law School as a Reader and Birmingham Fellow in January 2016 from Exeter University, where she had held posts of lecturer and senior lecturer since 2007.  Prior to entering academia, she worked as a lawyer-linguist at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.  Karen’s main research interests and areas of expertise are in multilingual law production in the European Union; post-enlargement dynamics of law and language in EU institutions and the relationship between law, language and translation in the EU legal order.  She is currently working on a 5-year €1 million research project, funded by the European Research Council, on law and language at the Court of Justice of the European Union.  More information on that project can be found on the project website:

Dr McAuliffe is on the ESRC College of Reviewers and on the editorial board of a number of international peer-reviewed journals, including The International Journal for the Semiotics of Law; The International Journal for Law, Language and Discourse; The International Journal of Legal English and Language and Law/Linguagem e Direito.  She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Society of Legal Scholars; International Language and Law Association; International Association of Forensic Linguistics; Multicultural Association of Law and Language; RELINE and a founder member of the Germanic Association of Forensic Linguistics.

Since 2011, Professor McAuliffe has been a visiting professor at the University of Luxembourg, where she teaches on the Masters in European Governance.  She has also previously held teaching positions in law and political science at The Queen’s University of Belfast and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, as well as (short-term) visiting positions at iCourts Centre of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen and Michigan State University College of Law, Doshisha University, Kyoto.  She regularly delivers talks and guest lectures at institutions around the world.

Postgraduate supervision

Professor McAuliffe is currently committed to work 100% of her time on the European Research Council project ‘Law and Language at the European Court of Justice’, but welcomes research proposals for future doctoral and postdoctoral research in the following areas:

The relationship between language and law
Multilingual legal systems
Legal translation/Institutional translation and its impact on law
Dynamics of language/culture/multilingualism in European Union Institutions
Proposals for empirical research projects and projects using interdisciplinary methodologies in those areas are particularly welcome.

Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Professor McAuliffe’s research focuses mainly on the field of law, language and translation in multilingual legal orders – in particular the EU and EU institutions.  She is also interested in the functioning of EU institutions, the relationship between law and language and the role and use of language within a legal system.  Her current research can be divided into three distinct areas:

  1. Post-enlargement dynamics of law and language in European Union Institutions
  2. The relationship between language, law and translation in the EU legal order
  3. Developmental social neuroscience, ethics and the law

Karen’s work is largely empirical and interdisciplinary, drawing on research methodologies from fields of sociology, anthropology, translation studies and linguistics to introduce new perspectives on the development of (EU) law.

Other activities

Dr McAuliffe also holds a visiting professorship at the University of Luxembourg.



Recent publications


Mattioli, V & McAuliffe, K 2021, 'A corpus-based study of opinions of advocates general of the court of justice of the European Union: changes in language and style', International Journal of Legal Discourse, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 87-111.

Clay, E & McAuliffe, K 2021, 'Reconceptualising the Third Space of legal translation: a study of the Court of Justice of the European Union', Comparative Legilinguistics, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 93-126.

Trklja, A & McAuliffe, K 2019, 'Formulaic metadiscursive signalling devices in judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union: a new corpus-based model for studying discourse relations of texts', International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 21–55.

McAuliffe, K 2016, 'Hidden Translators: The Invisibility of Translators and the Influence of Lawyer-Linguists on the Case Law of the Court of Justice of the European Union', Language and Law/Linguagem e Direito, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 5-29. <>

McAuliffe, K 2015, 'Translating ambiguity', Journal of Comparative Law, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 65-87. <>

McAuliffe, K 2013, 'The Limitations of a Multilingual Legal System', International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 861-882.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

McAuliffe, K, Muntean, L & Mattioli, V 2022, Through the Lens of Language: Uncovering the Collaborative Nature of Advocates General’s Opinions. in MR Madsen, F Nicola & A Vauchez (eds), Researching the European Court of Justice: Methodological Shifts and Law's Embeddedness. Studies on International Courts and Tribunals, Cambridge University Press, pp. 158-186.

McAuliffe, K 2020, Creating Multilingual Law: Language and Translation at the Court of Justice of the European Union. in M Coulthard, A May & R Sousa-Silva (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics. vol. 2.

McAuliffe, K & Trklja, A 2018, Superdiversity and the relationship between law, language and translation in a supranational legal order. in A Creese & A Blackledge (eds), The Routledge handbook of language and superdiversity: an interdisciplinary perspective. Routledge handbooks in applied linguistics, Routledge.

McAuliffe, K 2017, Behind the Scenes at the European Court of Justice: Drafting EU Law Stories. in F Nicola & B Davies (eds), EU Law Stories: Contextual and Critical Histories of European Jurisprudence., 3, Law in Context, Cambridge University Press, pp. 35-58.

Harmsen, R & McAuliffe, K 2014, The European Courts. in JM Magone (ed.), Routledge Handbook of European Politics. Routledge, pp. 263-279. <>


McAuliffe, K 2013, Precedent at the Court of Justice of the European Union: The Linguistic Aspect. in M Freeman & F Smith (eds), Law and Language: Current Legal Issues Volume 15. vol. 15, Current Legal Issues, Oxford, pp. 483-493. <>

McAuliffe, K 2012, Language And Law In The European Union: The Multilingual Jurisprudence Of The Ecj. in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law.


Williams, H, McAuliffe, K, Cohen, M, Parsonage, M & Ramsbotham, J 2015, 'Traumatic brain injury and juvenile offending: complex causal links offer multiple targets to reduce crime', Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: knowledge informing care, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 69-74.

Conference contribution

Trklja, A & McAuliffe, K 2018, The European Union case law corpus (EUCLCORP): a multilingual parallel and comparative corpus of EU court judgments. in AU Frank, C Ivanovic, F Mambrini, M Passarotti & C Sporleder (eds), Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Corpus-Based Research in the Humanities: CRH-2. vol. 1, Gerastree Proceedings, pp. 217-226, Second Workshop on Corpus-Based Research in the Humanities, Vienna, Austria, 25/01/18. <>

View all publications in research portal


Relationship between law, language and translation in the EU legal order

Legal translation 

Translation in EU institutions

Language in EU institutions

Language and Law