Clarity versus accuracy and objectivity in written legal English

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Abstract

This paper is an attempt to analyse the most important grammatical and, specifically, syntactic features and to point out some prominent lexical ones, which aim at accuracy and objectivity of a written legal document, and to discuss how these features influence clarity and transparency of the legal documents. The study covers the analysis of some EU, UK, US legislative acts alongside with some extracts from contract samples. The analysis reveals that written legal English is distinguished by long compound sentences, often with inverted word order and numerous embeddings, passive constructions and nominalisations, specific use of personal pronouns and collocations of synonyms (doublets and triplets), etc. These means allow to achieve the most possible accuracy and objectivity in legal texts but make them complicated and difficult to comprehend at once. Formality, achieved by the mentioned means, makes legal English distant from everyday language and often becomes a reason for criticism. Plain English supporters encourage simplifying legal language; however, long traditions of legal English make changes slow and difficult. Therefore, comprehension and usage of legal English still requires special knowledge of its lexical and grammatical features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 141-149
JournalSantalka = Coactivity: Filologija. Edukologija
Volume19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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Keywords

  • Written legal English
  • Grammar
  • Textual clarity
  • Accuracy
  • Objectivity

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