Alternative dispute resolution: mediation or conciliation?


The derivation, or etymology, of legal words often provides interesting insights into the underlying concepts that the words represent and also the associated cultural norms and perceptions. In this article, I will examine the derivation of the English and Chinese words for “dispute” and also two words that are used to describe forms of alternative dispute resolution: “mediation” and “conciliation”.

Let’s start by looking at the derivation of the English word “dispute”. This word derives from the Latin words “dis”, meaning separately, and “putare”, meaning “to consider”, or “to weigh up”. The underlying concept that this suggests is a difference of opinion or a divergence of views. In this respect, the English word “dispute” is close to the Chinese word zhenglun, meaning “controversy” or “debate”.

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andrew goodwin
Andrew Godwin

A former partner of Linklaters Shanghai, Andrew Godwin teaches law at Melbourne Law School in Australia, where he is an associate director of its Asian Law Centre. Andrew’s new book is a compilation of China Business Law Journal’s popular Lexicon series, entitled China Lexicon: Defining and translating legal terms. The book is published by Vantage Asia and available at www.vantageasia