Can one use the expressions "real estate", "real property", and "realty" in Private Law in the Civilian Tradition?
A study of the Living Legal Lexicon of the Civil Law.
An Abstract of the intervention held inTurin, dec. 5th, 1998
 
By
Professor Nicholas Kasirer,
Directeur et Professeur agrégé
Centre de Recherche  en Droit Privé et comparé du Québec
Faculté de Droit
Université McGIll

At first blush, the decision of the Quebec Parliament to use "real estate", "realty" and "real property" in the English text of the Civil Code of Quebec seems wrongheaded. Indeed, that the doctrineof estates is considered to be absent from the Civil Law would tend to confirm the view that "real estate"  is a misnomer for "immovable".  Moreover, all comparative lawyers would agree that the formal distinction between real and personal property  in the Common Law does not match that drawn between "meubles"/"movables" and "immeubles"/"immovables" in the French Civil law tradition of which Quebec law is historically derivative.

This said, it is hard  to ignore that these english words are part of the living lexicon of Quebec law as used by jurists as well as by lay people. These terms, which are plainly borrowed from the Common law in the first instance, do not carry the same common law connotations when transposed to Quebec. They are best characterized as true neologisms rather than legal transplants and as such they have long occupied a legitimate place in what one may describe as the informal legal lexicon of Quebec Civil Law.
The process of their reception and reconfiguration of meaning is best analyzed as a mixed phenomenon of comparative law and legal sociology. Importantly, the advento of "real estate" into the Civil law lexicon suggests that development of legal vocabulary must be understood as tracking (or perhaps mimicking) the emergence of informal or customary law and its susequent "codification" in official texts in the theory of sources law


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