A workshop on the topic The Language of Constitutions will be held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies – University of London in July 5 2018.
Historically, constitutions derive their form and their most distinctive features from the nineteenth century, the same period that witnessed the birth of the political and legal culture of the bourgeois era. Then, in the twentieth century the idea of the constitution gained acceptance in completely different cultures. Nowadays, the political and legal systems which make use of constitutions are indeed quite diverse: whereas the constitutional text occupies an important position in the state system of some places, in others it is only of secondary importance. Moreover, there are states that can manage without. There are also differences among Constitutions all over the world, which sometimes seem to have just the name or textual structure in common.
Constitutions represent a perfect setting for the legal, political science, and linguistic investigations. Not only the constitutional text has been used as the focal point of opposing political factions, but also emphasis has been increasingly placed on the document’s importance in the international sphere. More recently, the public appears to be interested in what takes place with regard to constitutions, with political parties trying to reform either the constitution or the interpretation that has been made of it.
Indeed, a constitutional text cannot be simply defined as a legal document; rather, it is a specific document in which political intentions and legal elements concur thanks to the language deployed to convey them. For this reason, it becomes crucial to explore the language of Constitutions. This language includes words and expressions that have both an ordinary and legal meaning, even though they have to be interpreted according to the legal meaning. In fact, the presence of legal technical jargon makes the constitutional text a document written in the language of the law and interpreted according to legal rules. Notwithstanding that, there are differences between the language of Constitutions and the language of other legal texts.
Therefore, it might be interesting to show how the conventions of language affect constitutional texts, particularly where constitutional words and expressions assume different meanings because of the legal system which originated them.
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