Legal Vocabulary

Heikki E. S. Mattila

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Legal Vocabulary

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics



Legal language is based on ordinary language. Hence, the grammar and most of the vocabulary of legal language are identical to those of ordinary language. On the other hand, legal language is one of the languages for special purposes, as a result of which it has certain characteristics that differ from ordinary language, for example, on the level of syntax and style. Legal language is characterized especially by the use of technical terms, the nature and number of which vary according to the branch of law. This article deals with technical terms of the law from different angles, taking into account various legal cultures and linguistic zones. It discusses the relation between legal vocabulary and legal concepts, polysemy and synonymy in legal terminology, reasons why legal terms are difficult to understand, how legal terms are formed, and legal dictionaries and term banks.

Keywords: legal language; legal vocabulary; technical terms; law; legal cultures; linguistic zones; legal concepts; polysemy; synonymy; legal dictionaries

Article.  5823 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics

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