Origins and Effects of Legal Significs

  • Jan M. BroekmanEmail author
  • Larry Catá Backer


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. It all pertains to the birthplace of semiotics!


Legal Fact Legal Language English Significs Critical Legal Study Legal Significs 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dickinson School of LawPenn State UniversityCarlisleUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Law and International AffairsPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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