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The Languages of the Law: An Integrated View From Vico and Conceptual Metaphor Theory


Work on the relation between figurative language and the law is a fairly recent trend, within legal discourse studies, linguistics, and semiotics. The work in conceptual metaphor theory, for example, is starting to unpack the underlying metaphorical and metonymic structure of legal language, producing some new and important insights into the nature of this language. Missing from this emerging line of inquiry are the views of the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico, who was the first to understand the power of figurative language in the creation of symbolic systems, like language and the law. His tripartite evolutionary model of language shows that there is not one language of the law, but three “languages.” By integrating Vico’s model with the work in conceptual metaphor theory it will be possible to penetrate the underlying conceptual structure of legal discourse and thus lead to a more insightful science of this discourse.

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Correspondence to Marcel Danesi.

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Danesi, M. The Languages of the Law: An Integrated View From Vico and Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Int J Semiot Law 25, 95–106 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-011-9250-9

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  • Vico
  • Metaphor
  • Metonymy
  • Irony
  • Conceptual metaphor theory
  • Legal discourse