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Shallow Equality and Symbolic Jurisprudence in Multilingual Legal Orders$
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Janny H.C. Leung

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190210335

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190210335.001.0001

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How Official Multilingualism Works

How Official Multilingualism Works

A Symbolic Jurisprudence

(p.87) Chapter 3 How Official Multilingualism Works
Shallow Equality and Symbolic Jurisprudence in Multilingual Legal Orders

Janny H.C. Leung

Oxford University Press

This chapter spells out major sociopolitical forces that have contributed to the widespread adoption of official multilingualism, and offers an explanation of how official multilingualism works through law. Jurisdictions that adopt multilingual law are primarily driven by pragmatic rather than normative forces. Official language law can perform a plethora of instrumental functions because such law works chiefly through its symbolic power. This discursive reading of law is contrary to the dominant, positivist view of law as command of a sovereign backed by force. Although symbolism is sometimes defined in opposition to what is real or substantive, law that works through symbolism is not necessarily empty in content or limited in impact. In fact, its semiotic flexibility has allowed it to be used to pursue a wide range of instrumental goals, which consist mostly of political and economic capital.

Keywords:   symbolism, jurisprudence, discursive, realism, official language, national language, rhetoric, symbolic law, symbolic capital, nationism

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