Languages and EU law discourse: A view from a bilingual periphery

von Päivi Leino

This article is a reply to Daniel Thym’s post on the “Solitude of European Law made in Germany“.

With a population of five-plus million, with two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, and located far in the north and east in the European Union, the discussion concerning the proper language for publication of legal research particularly in European law – or international law more generally, of which EU law was until EU membership in 1995 seen to constitute a part of – turns easily into a question concerning the ultimate purpose of such research, which is closely linked with the expected audience of such research. From a Finnish perspective, the discussion concerning the language of publication in legal scholarship is a difficult and even slightly sensitive one – after all, the relationship between the law and the language in which it is expressed, is intrinsic. This is nothing typically Finnish, but concerns legal professions and legal scholarship even more generally. There is a long tradition of legal scholarship in the two national languages, Finnish and Swedish, and, at least in Finland, law and legal research have been imaged to belong – in a somewhat national romantic tradition – to the sciences of a distinctively national character, and thus comparable to research in the Finnish language or Finnish history. Especially during the times before the current deep engagement with the transnational, the separation between our “own” legal system and “foreign” elements tended to be emphasised, contributing to a tendency to stress the special features of our own system in comparison with those of others ...

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