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  • Dr Navin C Naidu

Lingering legacy of language

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

"Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow."
— Justice Oliver W Holmes, Jr., US Supreme Court

Language is indeed the dress of thought for it to be the impetus of social cohesion. Inspiration, encouragement, discouragement and desperation are sourced from it depending on its spirit, substance and purpose. It is a reliable tool for effective, distributive, defective and destructive communications.

The English Language used in legislation is the epitome of convulsions and complexity in syntax. Edward VI (1537-1553) lamented, “I wish that the superfluous and tedious statutes were brought into one sum together, and made more plain and short.” Since then, a number of government commissions and parliamentary committees have attempted to revise and reorganise the statute book for the last 400 years.

To find the mercurial entity called justice requires language experts — philologists, linguists, grammarians, phonologists, vocabulists, usagists, classicists, transformationalists and glossographers — to draft legislation generally created to provide adequate exit strategies with well-designed escape routes to aid, assist and abet political camaraderie.

Drafters of legislation must be masters of language like Justices Cardozo, Holmes, Hughes, Jackson, Iyer and Abdoolcader. Why shouldn’t legislatures muster the assistance of judges as they are ultimately required to interpret the law? The doctrine of the separation of powers has seen better days!


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