Dr. Caroline Laske

Affiliated Researcher

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Niebuhrstraße 5
53113 Bonn


Dr. Caroline Laske
© Barbara Frommann

Caroline Laske holds graduate and post-graduate degrees in law from the University of Cambridge, in linguistics and translation studies from the University of Birmingham and a PhD in legal history from the University of Ghent.

Her research activities as a university researcher (University of Durham, Free University of Brussels, University of Ghent) and her work as a legal expert and specialist consultant for EU and international agencies, have taken her across a number of fields. Today her interdisciplinary research lies at the intersection of law, history and language, applying linguistic analysis to study legal history & concepts, comparative law and translation. She currently holds a research fellowship at the Ghent Legal History Institute, lectures at the UCLouvain and is a visiting fellow at the BCDSS where she works on the subject of legal capacity that medieval women enjoyed or lacked.

Medieval Women in Asymmetrical Dependencies: Textual Representation of Women's Legal Capacity

This project contributes to decoding asymmetric dependencies by studying the legal status and legal capacity of secular women in late medieval England, Normandy, Flanders and Saxony. The lack of legal capacity was the quintessential expression of their inferior position of dependency in society and in the eyes of the law. This is particularly poignant in relation to the capacity to hold land, to dispose of property, to run a business, appear in a court of law etc., even if only on a temporary basis while their menfolk were away on crusades, tied up with feudal duties or fighting wars. In fact, married women frequently represented the family unit and were engaged in public business, either on their own behalf and in their own name or on behalf of absent spouses.

The research aims to reveal the extent of that legal dependency in real, rhetorical and linguistic terms. It involves examining the textual and semantic representation of women in legal, quasi-legal and customary law texts, as well as in reports of (legal) disputes and private documents such as wills, by using diachronic linguistics and terminological (corpus linguistics and concordance-based) methodologies. This allows us to go beyond content analysis and get a better understanding of the actual social experience of women's legal capacity by compounding information and data from analysis of content, meanings, terminology and discourse and, hence, providing a contextualized understanding of the dependencies in which women existed in their daily lives.

  • 2020. Law, Language and Change: A Diachronic Semantic Analysis of Consideration in the Common Law. Leiden: Brill.
  • Medieval Women in the Très Ancien Coutumier de Normandie. Textual Representation of Asymmetrical Dependencies, (series eds.) A. AL Ghouz, J. Bischoff, S. Dusend (2020) Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture Series, vol. 3, Berlin: EB-Verlag.
  • 2020. Environmental Law: Lexical Semantics in the Quest for Conceptual Foundations. Stoett, Lamalle (eds.): Representations and Rights of the Environment. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Big data linguistic analysis of legal texts - objectivity debunked?, edited by G.V. Rosas, J. Fabra-Zamora (2021 in print) Objectivity about Law and Objectivity of Law, Oxford: Hart Publishing.
  • 2020. "Free Movement" of Peoples: Flemings in England. Actes d'Arras. Société d'Histoire du droit et des institutions des pays flamands, picards et wallons. Lille: CDH Lille – collection verte.
  • Corpus Linguistics: the digital tool kit for analysing language and the law (forthcoming, autumn 2021), Comparative Legal History.
  • 2019. Hobbes and the Common Law. Kinneging, Colette, De Hert (eds.): De ik-gerichtheid van de politieke filosofie. Eindhoven: Damon, 208–231.
  • 2019. La libre circulation des peuples: les terres flamandes en Angleterre (XIe – XIIe siècle), Revue du Nord, tome 101, no. 429, janvier – mars, 190-192.
  • 2018. Le Law French, un idiome protégeant les privilèges du monde des juristes anglais entre 1250 et 1731. Corela: Cognition, Representation, Langage.
  • Legal History meets Lexical Semantics: Consideration – The Origin of Terms and Concept. 2017. PhD Thesis: http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-8537493.
  • Losing Touch with the Common Tongues – The Story of Law French. International Journal of Legal Discourse 1(1) 2016, 169–192.
  • 2013. Translators and Comparatists as Objective Mediators between Cultures. Husa, Van Hoecke (eds.): Objectivity in Law and Legal Reasoning, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 213–227.
  • 2012. Translating the Law. Rechtgeleerd Magazijn Themis, 173 (6), 267–278.
  • 2012. Law and Translation – Special Issue, guest editor: C. Laske. Rechtgeleerd Magazijn Themis, 173(6).
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