From Jonathan Yovel, a piece on the significance, meaning, and use of language in law and magic.
Jonathan Yovel, Yale Law School & University of Haifa, Faculty of Law, In the Beginning Was the Word: Paradigms of Language and Normativity in Law, Philosophy, and Theology, 5 Mountbattan Journal of Legal Studies 5-33 (2001). Here is the abstract.
This essay attempts to delineate, trace, and reconstruct the main features of three interacting language paradigms significant in legal discourse, practice and theory: rhetoric, representationalism, and performativity. The examples discussed are narratives of institutionalized and customary law that share linguistic attributes with literary forms and theological puzzles. Law, as a complex linguistic activity, is thus placed in a long tradition of linguistic theory ranging from Plato and Protagoras to Wittgenstein, Austin and the linguistic turn (Sapir-Whorf); as well as supernatural uses of law, exercised both by divine fiat and lesser practices - namely the linguistic aspects of magic - especially in determining rights and settling disputes.
Download the full text from SSRN at the link, or from the journal here.