The Grammar And Structure Of Legal Texts

Risto Hiltunen

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

 The Grammar And Structure Of Legal Texts

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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That legal texts are generally considered difficult to read and understand stems from the law's societal functions of control and regulation. In order to provide a firm foundation for legal decision-making processes, which have to be systematic and just, the text of the law needs to be clear, explicit, and precise. It is only to be expected that such strict conditions will impose equally strict requirements on the design of the language of legal texts. Legal syntax is distinctly idiosyncratic in terms of both the structure and arrangement of the principal sentence elements. When we look at legal language above the level of the sentence, we are concerned with the level of discourse. This article addresses the language of legal texts with special reference to their grammar and structure, focusing on written legal texts as materializations of the language of the legal code, a term that is here used to refer to the law as embraced in legal statutes. As far as legal language is concerned, the article considers acts of the British Parliament.

Keywords: grammar; syntax; legal texts; law; legal language; discourse; legal code; legal statures; British Parliament

Article.  5622 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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