Project

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International law, linguistics and experimentation (IntLLEx)

English title International law, linguistics and experimentation (IntLLEx)
Applicant Pirker Benedikt
Number 190912
Funding scheme Spark
Research institution Institut für Europarecht Universität Freiburg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Legal sciences
Start/End 01.02.2020 - 31.07.2021
Approved amount 99'878.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Legal sciences
Applied linguistics

Keywords (7)

experimentation; pragmatics; global governance; international law; linguistics; interpretation; law and language

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Auslegung der Regeln des Völkerrechts bleibt ein umstrittenes Thema. Mit neuen experimentellen Methoden der Linguistik sollen neue Antworten auf alte Fragen gefunden werden.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Die Normen des Völkerrechts gewähren oft einen Auslegungsspielraum. Teils führt dies zu Streitigkeiten, wenn Staaten ihre Verpflichtungen unterschiedlich auslegen; teils werden auch internationale Gerichte und Schiedsgerichte, die zur Auslegung berufen sind, kritisiert, wenn sie zu «weit hergeholte» Auslegungen vertreten. Mithilfe der modernen Linguistik führt das Projekt eine bisher im Völkerrecht unbekannte Kategorisierung von sogenannten inferierten Auslegungen ein, d.h. Auslegungen, die sich nicht den ausdrücklichen Elementen einer Norm entnehmen lassen, sondern auf die von den Auslegenden geschlossen wird. Eine solche Kategorisierung erlaubt es, Auslegungen besser als mehr oder weniger «weit hergeholt» zu klassifizieren und kann das Streitpotenzial durch ein präziseres Vorgehen bei der Auslegung verringern. Dazu wird die vorgeschlagene Kategorisierung anhand von an echte Fälle angelehnten Szenarios in einem Experiment getestet, an dem Laien, Rechtsstudierende und VölkerrechtsexpertInnen teilnehmen.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Gegenwärtig kämpft das Völkerrecht vor dem Hintergrund wieder erstarkenden Nationalismus und Souveränitätsdenkens mit Legitimitäts- und Durchsetzungsproblemen. Dies zeigt sich z.B. an der scharfen Kritik, der sich internationale Gerichte und Schiedsgerichte ausgesetzt sehen. Das Projekt leistet in diesem Kontext einen Beitrag zum besseren Verständnis und zum besseren Funktionieren des Völkerrechts, was dessen Legitimität stützen soll.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 12.12.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Abstract

International law scholars have always studied interpretation. More recently, they have turned to linguistics, although in doing so they have tended to rely on older theories. Only in recent years have they turned to cognitive pragmatics as a part of modern linguistics. Pragmatics as a sub-discipline of linguistics focuses on the dimension of language meaning that emerges in context, i.e. through language use. Cognitive pragmatics focuses on the operation of the human mind in this context. Recent research has developed a precise typology of pragmatic interpretations in cases where meaning is not explicitly expressed in an utterance. The present project intends to combine international law with cognitive pragmatics. Specifically, in line with the trend towards experimentalism in both cognitive pragmatics and international law, it aims to implement an experimental study to test its claim, namely that the mentioned typology can be fruitfully applied to the interpretation of international law. International law prescribes that interpreters take into account ‘ordinary meaning’ when interpreting an international treaty. Currently, however, where a treaty text does not contain an explicit solution to their problem, interpreting agents such as courts often quickly move from the ordinary meaning to other means of interpretation, thereby neglecting their interpretive obligation. Pragmatic interpretations could offer a solution to this problem. Ariel’s typology describes six types of pragmatic interpretations based on how closely they are linked to an utterance and suggests ‘faithful report’ tests that allow one to distinguish between them. If this could be applied to law, interpreters would be able to pinpoint the relationship between their inferred interpretation and an actual treaty provision with more precision. They could, therefore, take ‘ordinary meaning’ seriously. This would have a substantial impact on ongoing debates in international law on judicial activism or on courts as law-makers, but also on the more recent backlash against international courts. At the same time, the project could confirm Ariel’s typology by way of experiment, and thereby also contribute to pragmatics.The project design foresees, first, the drafting of international law scenarios (short cases). Each scenario would contain a type of pragmatic interpretation. Participants would be asked to choose between various descriptions of the presented pragmatic interpretation. The descriptions would contain - without the participants’ knowledge - Ariel’s faithful report tests. The expected outcome is confirmation of the typology in the abstract, but also of its concrete applicability in the context of international law. The participants would be recruited from among laypersons, law students and international law experts. If successful, this project could contribute substantially to each of the disciplines mentioned above, but also to interdisciplinary research. Even non-conclusive results could provide insights into how to refine the typology or how the different participant groups fare comparatively. The research team would be composed of a principal investigator, knowledgeable in the fields of international law and of pragmatics, and a post-doctoral research fellow experienced in experimental pragmatics. The project budget encompasses salary costs, limited travel costs, funds for an online platform to recruit lay participants and funds for a final workshop to discuss the project results with like-minded researchers.
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