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Language, Audience, and the Transformation of Disputes

Lynn Mather and Barbara Yngvesson
Law & Society Review
Vol. 15, No. 3/4, Special Issue on Dispute Processing and Civil Litigation (1980 - 1981), pp. 775-822
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Law and Society Association
DOI: 10.2307/3053512
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3053512
Page Count: 47
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Language, Audience, and the Transformation of Disputes
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Abstract

This article develops an analytic framework for comparing dispute processing within a single institution and across different cultures, by focusing on the transformation of disputes. Case studies from diverse nonwestern and western settings are examined to show how disputes change as they are processed in response to the interests of various participants. Disputants, supporters, third parties, and relevant publics seek to rephrase and thus transform a dispute by imposing established categories for classifying events and relationships (narrowing), or by developing a framework which challenges established categories (expansion). Disputes may be expanded by adding new issues, by enlarging the arena of discussion, or by increasing the number and type of active participants. Thus, how the dispute is defined (language) and the roles played by various participants are critical features of the dispute. We focus on the agent of transformation, with special attention to the degree of audience participation, particularly in dispute expansion. We suggest the importance of expansion as a mechanism through which new rules emerge in the legal process, and through which social change is linked to legal change.

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