Origins and effects of legal significs

Jan M. Broekman, Larry Catá Backer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Legal semiotics in the guise of legal significs was for the first time exposed in the PhD dissertation of De Haan in Amsterdam, 1916. That publication can in hindsight be seen as the first work on legal semiotics, and the same year the first inaugural lecture took place at the University of Amsterdam, as translated in this volume. De Haan underlines that a better language of law contributes to a better law. Legal language is at its best when it articulates the relevant situation in its best legal terms, but there is no such articulation of language if it is not psychologically well founded. De Haan's signific ideal is that law fits to reality in a one-to-one meaning relation between life facts and legal facts. Significs as developed in the beginning of the 20th century differs from semiotics because the first had to fight seriously for the recognition of the concept of meaning and in particular, as de Haan reports literally, for accepting the question pertaining to the meaning of meaning—long before Ogden Richards’ 1923 The Meaning of Meaning, which was conceived as a study of the influence of language upon thought, and by no means to significs or to semiotics. We do not know anymore how Lady Welby and the Amsterdam Circle had to fight for the recognition of the meaning issue—in our days it seems not only evident but is also very fashionable in sciences and philosophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSigns in Law - A Source Book
Subtitle of host publicationThe Semiotics of Law in Legal Education III
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9783319098371
ISBN (Print)9783319098364
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Psychology


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