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 Format: Microsoft Word   Chapters: 1-5

 Pages: 75   Attributes: COMPREHENSIVE RESEARCH

 Amount: 3,000

 Sep 24, 2019 |  12:31 pm |  2443



1. Background of the Study

Not only does law constitute a language, but a very special kind of language, for it is an attempt to structure the realities of human behaviour through the use of words. Law must pattern human activity in such a way as to allow at least the great preponderance of members of the polity to meet their felt needs and express their most deeply-held values. A legal system must, therefore, provide some means for peaceful change of the patterns of behaviour it enforces so that it can continue, in an orderly fashion, to meet the changing needs and values of those who live under it.

This work brings to light the crucial use of language in jurisprudence. Not only does the use of language crucial to philosophers of law, but in the special respect that lawmakers typically use language to make the law, and courts typically use language to state their grounds of decision. In this regard, philosophers of law need a good philosophical understanding of the meaning and use of language in order to address a seemingly pensive issue in jurisprudence of which the language of law has been adjudged of being too technical, private and secluded from those it is meant to cover. In a bid to address this issue, different philosophers have theorized and brought about diverse opinions and views to assuage this uprising. It was against this backdrop that the researcher, having in mind to remedy the situation, took-on the contributions of Ludwig Wittgenstein; a twentieth century analytic philosopher who arose and made his contributions to the philosophy of language in his two major works; Tractatus Logico Philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations. He made us to know in the latter that: “to understand a sentence means to understand a language. To understand a language means to be a master of a technique”.1 Thus, I would add that being a master of a technique implies being acquainted with the ‘form of life’ that gives rise to such technique. With the above statement from his Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein provided a framework upon which our language must be construed and understood. Having said this, a critical look at Wittgenstein’s conception of language and its implication to jurisprudence becomes imperative, and this is the thrust of this work.

2. Statement of Problem

The assertion made by David Mellinkoff in The Language of the Law that: “law is a profession of words”2, is not doubtful, but the language of law has been adjudged and criticized of possessing the nature of deceit in that legal contents are not comprehendible to the legal laypersons. To this end, this work aims at exposing and addressing a major issue posed by the critics of jurisprudence as regards its language structure which according to them portrays law in a classified light. Also accompanied by this major challenge includes different questions that may arise such as; what makes an addressee or a client unable to capture the meaning of legal terms and concepts? Are those terms intentionally construed to keep the addressee or the client in the dark? Are they ambiguous that the addressee finds it unable capturing the meaning? Are the words incoherent, illogical, unintelligible, disjointed, indecipherable, or are they just meaningless and full of jargons as posited by many critics of legal language? Having listed these problems, this work will be geared towards ascertaining if Wittgenstein’s conception of language was able to address them.

3. Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to critically examine Wittgenstein’s conception of language and its implication to jurisprudence, and to show to what extent his contribution have proffered answers to criticisms against the language of the law. In an endeavour to counteract the criticisms against the language of jurisprudence, this study spreads its tentacles to various areas in seeking redress leaning closely on Wittgenstein’s conception of language.

4. The Thesis of the Study

Considering various efforts put forward by various theorists from diverse dimension in proffering remedy to the criticisms against the language of jurisprudence, this paper defends the thesis that Wittgenstein’s conception of language plays a therapeutic role for the understanding of language as used in jurisprudence and thus, using his language conception, a clearer understanding of law is achievable.

5. Significance of the Study

The significance of this study lies not alone on the role it will play in convincing and clearing bugs of misconception from the mind of the critics of the language of law, but also in projecting a clearer understanding of law by the scrutiny of its language structure through the all embracing compass of philosophy which according to G. O. Ozumba ‘plays a therapeutic role of curing us of linguistic bewitchment’3. On the other hand, this work will be of much relevance to the academic body in-that it will broaden the students’ knowledge of language-use and how best it applies to jurisprudence. It will also facilitate and equip a researcher with the grundnorms of philosophy of language, and of the language of law..

6. Scope of the Study

This work is limited to the study of the implications of Wittgenstein’s conception of language to jurisprudence, and will also, highlight the views and opinions of other philosophers, linguists and legal theorists, whose contributions, thoughts and opinions in one way or the other have bearing to Wittgenstein’ s conception of Language.

7. Research Methodology

The methodologies adopted for this work were historical, analytic, expository, and critical. The historical method was used in order to pave way and give a broader and wider approach for an analysis of Wittgenstein’s language thesis, which was critically evaluated in finding its fitting in jurisprudence. The analytic method was applied in examining the various strands of Wittgenstein’s language conceptions which includes; his argument against private language, language-games, rule-following, and his notion of form of life. The expository method was employed in an attempt to expose in a detailed description, the flaws immanent in Wittgenstein’s language theses, and to further juxtapose his many language concepts with the language of jurisprudence in finding its significance; the critical method was adopted to analyze and proffer adequate solution to the criticisms against the language of jurisprudence, and also to scrutinize the tenability and plausibility of Wittgenstein’s views and their contemporary relevance. Data for this work were sourced from books, articles/periodicals and internet.


1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, ed. Philosophical Investigations, G. E. M. Anscombe     (London:          Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1958), paragraph 199.

2. David Mellinkoff, The Language of the Law (Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1963), vi.

3. Godfrey Ozumba, Introduction to Philosophy of Language (Ibadan: Hope publications,          2004), 13.

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