Report from the first ILLA Junior Research Panel at the ILLA Relaunch Conference in September 2017
By Yinchun Bai, Isabelle Gauer, Jana Werner
From September 7th to 9th, 2017 the International Language and Law Association (ILLA) held its first international conference, hosted by Prof. Dr. Friedemann Vogel in Freiburg, Germany. It was an exciting event uniting over 100 scholars from linguistics, law, social and cultural sciences, marking the starting point to relaunch ILLA as a sustainable and up-to-date organization. When ILLA was founded in 2007, it was an initiative by legal linguists Peter Tiersma, Lawrence Solan and Dieter Stein to create a network of linguists and lawyers around the world working on the matrix of language and law. Over the years, hundreds of people joined the organization, as it became an important voice in the field of language and law through the newsletters that Peter Tiersma distributed until shortly before his passing in 2014. Its present presidents are Prof. Dr. Frances Olsen (UCLA, USA) and Prof. Dr. Friedemann Vogel (Freiburg, Germany). Members of the steering committee include Prof. Dr. Anne-Lise Kjær (Copenhagen, Denmark), Prof. Dr. Ralf Poscher (Freiburg, Germany), Prof. Dr. Lawrence Solan (New York, USA), and Prof. Dr. Dieter Stein (Düsseldorf, Germany).
The ILLA 2017 relaunch conference focused on the overall topic of "Language and Law in a World of Media, Globalisation and Social Conflicts". 34 panel presentations, 5 keynotes, and 2 workshops were held during the conference. One of the workshops was dedicated to junior researchers in the field of legal linguistics, organized and chaired by Yinchun Bai (Freiburg, Germany), Isabelle Gauer (Freiburg, Germany), and Jana Werner (Berlin, Germany), which took place on September 8th, 2017 in addition to the main conference program. Participants in this panel were Master’s students, PhD candidates, and post-doctoral researchers at different stages of their research projects. The aim of the panel was to provide a platform for junior researchers to be informed about the development in the working field, to exchange project ideas and methodologies, and to work towards the establishment of a junior researcher network within ILLA.
There were eleven speakers in the panel, representing different countries and diverse academic cultures, ranging from China to Kenya and to different European countries. The panel contributions were in the form of “Lightning Talks” – 5-minute presentations of the individual research projects in terms of their topic, methodology, and hypotheses/results. The research projects reflected a wide range of research interests and are hereby documented:
Sofiya Kartalova (Tübingen, Germany) — The strategic value of ambiguity for the authority of EU law in the dialogue between the European Court of Justice and the national courts
With empirical methods the study aims to identify if ambiguity facilitates the perpetuation of the authority of EU law by enabling the transition towards a vertical and multilateral relationship between the ECJ and the national courts, or by enhancing the coherence of the system either through promoting mutual understanding between the parties or through effective constitutional conflict management.
Alina Busila (Chişinău, Moldova; Brno, Czech Republic) — English – as the worst language choice for legal communication in the EU
The study points out the problems of using English as the parent language for legal terminology in the EU legal communication against the backdrop of globalization. As there is an incongruity in the legal law systems between the common law which is common in native English countries and civil law which is common in the most continental European states, even though a body of shared terminology in English was created, which may be acceptable for legal specialists, they are not for terminologists and translators who strive for precision and accuracy.
Irene Otero Fernández (Florence, Italy) — Multilingualism and the meaning of EU law
The project analyses the two moments where meaning is authoritatively injected into the law: law-making and judicial interpretation. Part of the work will rely on empirical methods, through fieldwork and interviews at the EU legislative institutions. The theoretical framework is interdisciplinary, combining EU institutional law, translation theory, philosophy of language, linguistics, and legal theory.
Milan Potočár's (Bratislava, Slovakia) —The automatized evaluation of the legal translation between smaller languages
Being part of the major project TransIus - From conventions to norms in the legal discourse, a cooperation between the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica and Comenius University in Bratislava, which aims to create a coherent theory of legal translation and to eliminate the terminological disunity of legal language, this project deals with the evaluation and feature-identification of legal translation between Dutch and Slovak.
Daniel Benrath (Freiburg, Germany) — Using legal analysis as a tool for linguistic research in illocutionary acts
Examining the legal attribution of certain ambiguous declarations in German contractual law, the study reveals different mechanisms on the illocutionary level in favor of the recipients of the ambiguous declarations, and thus adds to the understanding of language use and other forms of social interactions contained by social rules.
Jie Yang (Beijing, China) — On the Accuracy of the Courtroom Interpreting in China
The study points to existing problems in courtroom interpretation in the present-day Chinese legal system. Through a survey study, it attributes the problems to three reasons: lack of competent court interpreters, inadequate payment to court interpreters, and general insufficient knowledge of foreign legal systems.
Shaoqing Li (Beijing, China) — On Pragmatic Enrichment of Legal Translation
The study points out that legal translation requires the translators to have not only knowledge in the source and target languages, but also in the corresponding legal systems. Therefore, pragmatic and contextual enrichment based on the translators’ legal expertise and other encyclopedic knowledge can help to deal with uncertainties and ambiguities in legal translation.
Ruta Liepina (Florence, Italy) — Language of Causation – a case study
Using the example of a US vaccine case (Althen), the study examines the use of a set of commonly accepted expressions to identify various ways the language of causation is expressed by various participants in the legal setting, and aims to find out whether or not there is a distinct use of causal language in law in terms of its meaning and function.
Linda Pfister (Uppsala, Sweden) — Identity Proof in Final Asylum Decisions: It matters who Children are 'written' to be
The project studies how the “best interests of the refugee child” have been justified linguistically in the precedents of Swedish Migration Court during the past ten years. From a systemic-functional grammar perspective, it seeks to find out which meanings are constructed and which interests are verbalized in difference cases, by different natures of text, and over time, and if there are differences to be observed.
Gatitu Kiguru (Nairobi, Kenya) — “Hearing” persons with communication disabilities in courts
The project seeks to investigate ways of availing cost effective augmented and alternative communication (AAC) strategies for persons whose ability to use language in court is incapacitated. It will review the existing AAC strategies and customize them and popularize them to judicial officers and potential users in Kenya.
Christina Blanco Garcia (Santiago de Compostela, Spain) — Annotating the Corpus of Historical English Law Reports 1535-1999
The project described the annotation work involved in the CHELAR project – the Corpus of English Law Reports 1535-1999, which is compiled at the Research Unit for Variation, Linguistic Change and Grammaticalization based at the University of Santiago de Compostela. It is a new useful resource for linguists as well as interested lawyers working on legal English from both a synchronic and a diachronic perspective.
After the lightning talks, the participants were asked to vote anonymously for the most convincing project. The results were very close, but Linda Pfister, with the high social and political significance of her project and the passionate way of presentation convinced the majority of the panelists. Gatitu Kiguru was a close second with only one vote less than Linda Pfister. Therefore, the price went to Linda Pfister, which was a signed author’s copy of “The Pragmatic Turn in Law” from the conference organizer Prof. Dr. Friedemann Vogel.
The participants were also asked to prepare mini posters in relation to their lightning talks, which were displayed throughout the conference days near the coffee break and evening buffet area. This offered the opportunity to initiate discussion with other conference participants.
The last segment in the PhD panel was to discuss how the members would like to work together and/or keep in touch in the future. Besides the official ILLA-Newsletter, a mailing list could help to keep each other informed about news and upcoming events and opportunities for collaborations in the working field of language and law. Since all the participants are affiliated with different home institutions and working communities, they might have access to information of interest for the other members of the network, and the mailing list aims to make it possible or easier to share them. To broaden the network, establish new contacts and trigger faster discussions, the use of different social media platforms such as a dedicated Facebook group was suggested. There will also be a centralized information page about the PhD network on the ILLA website and an online gallery of the mini-posters displayed during the conference. In general, it was agreed that meetings should happen on a regular basis either in connection with other ILLA events or based at the home institution of one participant.
To sum up, the PhD panel was a great success. All the participants were highly motivated and engaging in both the conceptual and the organizational sides of the discussion. The atmosphere was professional yet friendly, supporting and constructive. More importantly, it founded the first structured international network of junior researchers in the field of legal linguistics.