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2 J. Comp. L. 120 (2007)
Linguistic Diversity versus Legal Unity in Europe: Getting beyond the Chicken-and-Egg Discussions

handle is hein.journals/jrnatila2 and id is 124 raw text is: Linguistic Diversity versus Legal Unity in Europe

Linguistic Diversity versus
Legal Unity in Europe:
Getting Beyond the
Chicken-and-Egg Discussions
VIKTOR SMITH *
1 INTRODUCTION
It appears that the ongoing debate regarding continued legal integration and, ultimately,
unity in Europe has given birth to a special'legal variant' of the classic antagonism between
linguistic relativism and linguistic universalism.'
The most outspoken representative of what might be called the extreme relativist
position is the French-Canadian legal comparatist, Pierre Legrand. Using the linguistic
diversity of European societies as a key argument that embraces all the rest, he insists that
the legal systems of Western Europe 'have not been converging, are not converging and
will not be converging. It is a mistake to suggest otherwise'.2 Legrand's position can be
summarised as follows:
*  legal rules are a surface phenomenon that cannot be separated from the national
and cultural contexts in which the rules are formed and fulfil their purpose, ie the
underlying deep structure which determines what Legrand calls the mentalitj of
any given legal system;
*  language is the very basis of our understanding and, indeed, of our construction of
reality with each language presenting reality in its own idiosyncratic way.3 It follows
that as long as languages in Europe differ, along with the world-views encoded into
Copenhagen Business School. This article has been developed from earlier work presented in two collective
volumes at Copenhagen Business School (see Smith 2003a and b at note 30 below) and a symposium proceedings
(see Smith 'Taking Linguistic Relativity Seriously' at note 39). I am indebted to two anonymous referees for
valuable comments and suggestions.
1 On the distinction, see, eg, Gumperz, JJ and Levinson, SC (eds) (1996) Rethinking Linguistic Relativity
Cambridge University Press.
2 Legrand, P (1996) 'European Legal Systems Are Not Converging' (45) International and Comparative Law
Quarterly 52 at 61-62.
3 Although not referring to it directly, Legrand is very much in line with the 'hardcore' version of linguistic
realism often labelled the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses, as most explicitly stated by Whorf, BL (1956) Language,
Thought, and Reality. Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee WhorfCaroll, JF (ed) MIT Press. For a general overview, see
Baldinger, K (1980) Semantic Theory: Towards a Modern Semantics Blackwell at 93ff.

120     JCL 2:1

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