Law and language in a multilingual society

LTC Harms
2012 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal  
LTC Harms  Terence McKenna, in Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, said that he did not believe that the world is made of quarks or electro-magnetic waves, or stars, or planets, or of any such things. 'I believe' he said, 'the world is made of language.' It would have been more correct to have said that the world is made of languages, many of them. The subject, Law and Language in a Multilingual Society, raises critical issues not only for us in this country but also for others because language is
more » ... ause language is partthe greater partof one's culture. A people without a culture is said to be like a zebra without stripes. Culture, and not race, nationality, religion or border (natural or political), determines one's identity. As one of the founding fathers of the Afrikaans language, Rev SJ du Toit, wrote in 1891: language is a portrait of the soul and life of a nation; and it mirrors the character and intellectual development of a people (my translation). Unfortunately language tends to divide, more particularly, a multilingual society. Law is supposed to close the divide but more often than not widens it and is used to deepen divisions. This is because the ruler determines the law and, consequently, the language of the law, in the belief that the use of language can be enforced from above. Law and language, like oil and water, do not mix although the former is dependent on the latter.
doi:10.4314/pelj.v15i2.2 fatcat:7ytfbndpgzbnpocyz7vcviky7a