Diachronic and Synchronic Aspects of Legal English

Charrow, Veda, and Jo Ann Crandall. “Legal Language: What is it and What can we do about it?” Paper presented at the New Wave Conference of the American Dialect Society (Washington, D.C., November 4, 1978). Charrow, Veda, Jo Ann ...

Diachronic and Synchronic Aspects of Legal English

Diachronic and Synchronic Aspects of Legal English is a brief guide to the past, present, and possible future of Legal English as a professional language. It is intended for a broad audience of readers interested in linguistics and in legal language as part of the spectrum of English for Special Purposes (ESP). The book uses simple words to explain the development and features of legal language to law students (especially L2 English speakers) and practicing lawyers, but also to non-academics interested in understanding the basis of the legal language that is part of our everyday lives. The book provides a brief introduction to the evolution of Legal English, from its origins to modern times, observing how it has changed lexically, structurally, and conceptually throughout the centuries, and a lexical and syntactic analysis of the contemporary legal register of the 21st century, in which Legal English has gone far beyond the borders of Great Britain. It also offers an introduction to the debate on the Plain English Movement’s suggestions for simplified legal language, and an example of textual analysis of an authentic legal document, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), in order to identify the stylistic markers of Legal English that help achieve the communicative aims of the text. Furthermore, a balance between time-honoured legal expressions and a simplification of legal language is proposed as a challenge for professional English, to guarantee citizens’ understanding of their rights and duties expressed through legislation.

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