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  1. Hafiz Ahmad Bilal Dept of English, University of Sargodha
  2.  The term “legal” simply refers to anything related to law, lawyers and court.  The first question coming to the mind is “What is, in terms of both stylistics and linguistics, the study object of the legal register?”  The answers may be miscellaneous, but they have one idea in common – “…the nature, functions and consequences of language use in the negotiation of social order.” (Danet 1985:273).
  3.  Law has two primary functions. ◦ ordering human relations ◦ restoring social order in cases it breaks down  Furthermore, by law people are told which activities are permitted and which are not, and  it helps create relations where none existed before
  4.  The second question posed by many professionals is which of the terms of dialect, register or sublanguage is the most relevant.  Danet (ibid: 275) puts forward her view and believes that legal language is so distinct and differentiated that it is possible to call it a separate dialect or sublanguage.  However, she prefers to label it a register due to her conviction that “register is mainly a matter of formality” (ibid).
  5.  The field of legal documents covers a wide range: statutes, decrees, legal provisions, economic contracts, commodity warranty, deeds of trust, insurance policies, wills and testaments, leases and installment plans, etc.  Yet all of these have one and the same functional tenor: They are concerned with imposing of obligations and conferring of rights.  And their personal tenor is the same--very formal, even dignified.  In terms of mode, all of them are recorded in a written form being essentially a visual language meant to be scrutinized in silence.
  6.  Though, for instance, court trial is conducted in spoken form, the language used at court shares much with the characteristics of written legal documents.  In order to ensure that a document says exactly what it is meant to say, and leaves no chance for misinterpretation, composers of the document will take the greatest pains to make it communicate just one set of meanings and avoid any possible ambiguity.
  7.  Owing to ◦ the composers‘ reliance on established forms and ◦ their reluctance to adopt new and untested modes of expression,  and owing to some historical reasons,  legal English appears extremely conservative and presents some striking oddities in ◦ form and ◦ wording.
  8.  The legal genre, which has a well- established status in sublanguage studies, includes a variety of texts and situational patterns.  Within the legal genre there are ‘internal’ functional sub-genres, such as statutes, conventions, contracts with their numerous sub-categories, wills, case reports, etc.  The underlying notion is that genre refers to some patterned recurrent form or conventions,.
  9.  Historical development:  In prehistoric Britain, traditional common law was discussed in the language since time immemorial.  The legal language and legal tradition changed with influence of conquerors over the following centuries.  Roman Britain (after the conquest beginning in AD 43) followed Roman legal tradition, and its legal language was Latin.
  10.  Then the Roman departure from Britain and the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, the dominant tradition was instead Anglo-Saxon law, which was discussed in the Germanic language (Anglo-Saxon, Old English), and written in Old English.  The Norman invasion of England in 1066, Anglo- Norman French became the official language of legal proceedings in England for a period of nearly 300 years, while Latin was used for written records for over 650 years.
  11.  In legal pleadings, Anglo-Norman urbanized into Law French, from which many words in modern legal English are resulting. These include property, estate, chattel, lease, executor, and tenant.  The use of Law French during this period has an enduring influence on the general linguistic register of modern legal English.  It also gives idea for some of the complex linguistic structures engaged in legal writing.  In 1363, the Statute of Pleading was enacted, which stated that all legal proceedings be conducted in English (but recorded in Latin).
  12.  This marked the beginning of formal Legal English; Law French continued to be used in some forms into the 17th century, though it became increasingly disintegrate.  From 1066, Latin was the language of formal proceedings and statutes, being replaced by English.  However, since only the learned were smooth in Latin, it never became the language of legal pleading or debate.  The influence of Latin can be seen in a number of words and phrases such as ad hoc, de facto, bona fide, inter alia, and ultra vires, which remain in current use in legal writing.
  13.  On a basis of systematic studies on the legal register, an outline based on  Danet (1985:279-286) and  Hiltunen (1990:81-87)  of the linguistic/stylistic features typical of legal language may be given as follows.
  14.  Technical Terms – every profession and occupation is typical of its special technical vocabulary, or “terms of art” as warranty deed, criminal proceedings, Procurator Fiscal, grantee, devisee.  Common Terms with Uncommon Meanings – the legal register uses familiar words but with uncommon meanings, e.g. “assignment” does not mean a “task or duty”, or “something assigned”, but it means the “transference of a right, interest or title”; also the use of shall refers very frequently not to the future but to an obligation or duty.
  15.  Like all other specialists, lawyers also have a set of technical terms at their own disposal.  A number of common words have been converted into technical terms with only one of their meanings kept in the legal text. For instance, in legal texts, ◦ instance refers to a formal legal document, ◦ deed refers to a signed and usually sealed document containing some legal transfer, bargain or contract, ◦ principal means a corpus of estate, etc
  16.  Archaic Expressions  typically, legal documents are abundant in items such as hereinafter, hereto, hereby, hereof, aforesaid, whosoever, thereof, therein, etc.  These originate in Old English and, “may have originally been introduced as ambiguity resolving elements or means of abbreviation” (Hiltunen 1990:84).  Furthermore, they add to the degree of formality of legal documents.
  17.  In order to render the legal documents highly formal and dignified, lawyers often employ words and phrases that are unique to this variety.  Words like herein, hereto, hereof, hereinafter, hereby, hereinabove, hereon, heretofore, thereafter, thereby, thereinafter, thereof, thereto, there-under, whereby, whereof where- on ; phrases like forever in fee simple, in witness whereof, legally selected and possessed of, of sound and disposing mind, at the time of my death, upon his official bond , ere, are well studded in legal documents;
  18.  they are either unique to legal English or are endowed with a strong legal flavor.  Other archaism-looking words such as (This LEASE...) WITNESSETH , (its) duly (authorized officer), (my Commission) Expires (this__ day of__, 19__, (the) Executrix (of this my Will), outright (if she is living at the time of my death), (we hereby) attest (to our belief), (the) testator , and so on also present a degree of formality.
  19.  More use of Romance than Germanic words  Owing to the extensive borrowing of French legal terminology after the Conquest, the French vocabulary is extremely large.  Those from French are state, insurance, company, agree, insured, declarations, payment, premium, reliance, statements, terms, policy, note, liability, agreements, coverage, property, sums, pay, damage (s), caused, accident,, attorneys, suit, alleging, allegations, claim , etc  and those directly of Latin origin are type, section, injury, obligated, including, vehicle, selected, compensated, negotiations, etc.
  20.  Doublets  they are also referred to as word pairs.  Many of them root in the Norman Period.  They are “fixed in the mind as frozen expressions, typically irreversible” (Danet 1985:281).  Common ones are ‘last will and testament’, ‘give and bequest’, ‘will and bequest’, ‘aid and abet’, ‘cease and desist’, ‘rules and regulations’, etc.
  21.  Formality – many expressions of legal English have a high degree of formality,  e.g. the preference of shall to will; positions of people and institutions involved have capitalised initial letters, for instance Grantor, Devisee, Contractor, Attorney,  even the names of the documents are capitalised – Warranty Deed, Last Will and Testament, etc.  Unusual Prepositional Phrases – according to Charrow and Charrow (1979) the preposition ‘as to’ frequently appears in legal English; another example is ‘in the event of’
  22.  Frequency of Any – this word is considered redundant, but in legal documents is more than common: any child or children, any encumbrances, any other assets, etc.  Hiltunen (1990:84) concludes his comment on the issue of vocabulary by stating that  adjectives in legal English “are fairly scarce (because they are often imprecise and vague),  nouns tend to be abstract rather than concrete (because they frequently do not refer to physical objects), and  verbs are selected from a fairly small number of lexical sets”.
  23.  As Danet (1985:281) claims,  “syntactic features are probably more distinctive of legal English than are lexical ones, and certainly account for more of the difficulties of lay persons in comprehending it”.  She identifies eleven of such features.
  24.  Nominalization  this feature is considered by many linguists, Urbanova (1986:19) among others, as prominent.  Some examples:  make such provision for the payment of instead of provide for the payment,  or give time for the payment of any debts instead of give time for persons owing debts to pay, etc.
  25.  Passives  they are characteristic of formal documents;  sometimes an active verb may be more suitable in a sentence but the use of the passive makes it more formal;  on the other hand, sometimes it is not possible to use the active voice because there is no specific agent in a sentence, thus the passive is the only choice.  Whiz Deletion  it means the omission of the wh-forms plus some forms of the verb ‘to be’, e.g.  ….herein [which is] contained or implied.
  26.  Conditionals  exemplary are complex conditionals, they may be used, for example, to specify who is included in a certain term (e. g. the Grantee) if there are more people concerned.  Prepositional Phrases  legal discourse is high in incidence of this feature.  A prepositional phrase can string out one after another, and as Danet (1985:282) claims, “prepositional phrases are often misplaced”.
  27.  Sentence Length and Complexity  the complexity of legal register sentences can be spotted very easily.  Gustafsson (1975) says that  an average sentence contains 55 words (twice as many as in scientific English, for example),  and there are 2.86 clauses per sentence in the legal style.
  28.  Sentence Length and Complexity  Legal English consists of only complete sentences containing both ◦ coordinate and ◦ subordinate clauses, and  instances of clausal embedding (inserted clauses) are not unique.  Sentences can stretch over several lines, constitute one whole paragraph, and  it is not an exception that a whole document can consist of one sentence only.  Pre n Post Modification
  29.  Unique Determiners  the distinct representatives are those of such and said.  They are used in a way specific only for the legal discourse. They mean this, the, the particular, the one that is being concerned and no other. An example: the said property.  Impersonality  they are typically written in the third person  as it adds to the degree of formality.  The parties concerned are referred to as the Contractor, the Grantee, the Borrower, the Lender, etc.
  30.  Negatives  especially multiple negatives are characteristic items of the legal language.  They are not expressed only by ◦ not, never,  but most frequently by adding the terms like ◦ unless, except or ◦ by prefixes un-, in-, etc.
  31.  Binomial Expressions, Parallel Structures  Danet (1985:283) points out that  “the legal register is striking for its use of elaborate parallel structures” and that “binomial expressions are a special case of parallelism”.  Gustafsson (1975) describes these items as  “sequence of two words belonging to the same form class, which are syntactically coordinate and semantically related”.  Moreover, she (ibid: 75) claims that binomial expressions are typically a pair of nouns that functions as an adverbial and occurs in the rhematic part of the sentence.
  32.  Binomial Expressions, Parallel Structures  Some instances of binomials: goods and materials; liable and responsible; engage or participate, generally and specifically, etc.  Apart from binomials, there exist trinomial and even multinomial expressions in (legal) English.  Some examples: control, direct or supervise; employee, partner, agent, or principal; files, records, documents, drawings, specifications, equipment, and similar items, etc.  Some linguists have focused their analyses on the specification of the relationships in binomials, i.e. synonymy, near-synonymy, antonymy and enumeration.
  33.  Tendency to long sentences  Wide use of statement-type sentences  Complex post-modification in the nominal group  Pre-modification  Use of simpler verbal groups
  34.  Little attention is paid to the distinctive prosodic features in legal documents.  Most frequently, they appear in binomial expressions.  Assonance, Alliteration and Phonemic Contrast  expressions like rules and regulations, contain or constitute have alliteration of /r/ and then /k/.
  35.  Rhyme, Rhythm and Meter  again, most frequently some instances of ◦ rhyme and rhythm  may be found in binomial expressions, e.g. whatsoever and wheresoever,  employ and rely,  in whole or in part,  benefits from or interests under, etc.
  36.  End Weight  Gustafsson (1975) and Danet (1984b) have studied the issue of the extent to which the materials they analysed conform with the principle of end-weight (Leech 2002:210).  They concluded  “there are more beats, or phonetic material, in the second half of a two-part expression” (Danet 1985:284).
  37.  End Weight  Some examples can be found in binomials: ◦ belongs to/or can be appointed by; ◦ for me and in my name.  On the contrary, it is possible to find a shorter item appearing second, e.g. ◦ determine or secure; ◦ direction and control.
  38.  Legal documents are to be scrutinized ◦ not only by the parties concerned ◦ but by lawyers.  So whoever draws up a legal text is constantly and inescapably concerned with  the special kind of meaning that he or she is called upon to produce.  He or she must meet the demands ◦ to be precise and exact, ◦ to avoid ambiguity, ◦ to evade the possibilities of misinterpretation, & ◦ to conform to the linguistic dictates of the law.
  39.  This results in ◦ the extreme conservatism of legal English ◦ which is shown  in the keeping of the ceremonial element in legal context and  in the reliance on forms of language that have been proved effective.
  40.  lexical repetition (rare pronoun reference)  In order to achieve exactness of reference, leaving no loopholes whatsoever, legal documents tend to use lexical repetition as the formal device to link their long and self- contained sentences.  Repetition of the same exact word or words not only occurs between sentences, but also between different parts within the same sentence.  As a result, pronoun reference is scarce.  Repetition within the same sentence is remarkably unique in this variety
  41.  Conjunctional phrases and parallel structure  Coordination of words and phrases are another remarkable feature of legal texts.  The most frequently seen are: last will and testament , children and issue, heirs and devices, provisions and stipulations, full force and effect, terms and conditions, etc  Parallel structure is prominent in enumerating concrete terms and conditions of a policy or contract.  Together with the proper use of blocks and punctuations, the numbered parallel structure makes the legal text much easier for reference than some old types of legal texts.
  42.  Tendency to meticulous way of expression  Another way  to achieve exactness of reference and  to evade any possible misinterpretation is  to be extremely detailed in expression  lest there should arise anything disputable concerning the stipulations on rights or obligations.
  43.  Tendency to meticulous way of expression  For instance:  Person ◦ means a natural person and not a corporation, partnership, association or business name.  occupying (the owned motor vehicle) ◦ means in or upon or entering into or alighting from (the owned motor vehicle).
  44.  Use of different types ◦ Font Style ◦ Font Size ◦ Upper Case  Particular arrangement of blocks  Limited range of punctuation
  45.  Particular arrangement of blocks  The blocks of print with white space between them and with indentations and/or numbers (or letters) at the beginning of paragraphs or clauses that are subordinate to the foregoing paragraph.  All this is evidently an effort to give the content a good organization and make its internal relationship clear.  The long sentence (as the beginning sentence of the automobile policy) is itself broken up by spaces to mark out certain important points within it.
  46.  Use of Italicization and Bold text:  It is very important graphological feature of any legal document that words, phrases and even sentences are italicized and bold to make stress.  Capitalization:  Some laws require that certain provisions of contracts be printed in a font that is larger than the remainder of the text, or in all caps, to avoid burying important terms in a bunch of small text.
  47.  Capitalization of initial letters is in the texts used widely.  Capital letters can be seen in the names of the participators, occupations, organizations and institutions, instruments/documents, main sections, and also in the sums of money when they are set in words because these institute an important matter.  The capitalized items are directly related to the documents they carry the notion of ―this and no one else‖.
  48.  Punctuation: Absence of punctuation. As it is normally known punctuation helps reading a piece of writing loudly.  But, what if legal texts are originally made to be read (scrutinized) in silence, not to be spoken at a loud voice and hence the thinness of their punctuation, that shows the FORMALITY of the sample taken.  Nowadays, punctuation though rare, has a function in legal texts.
  49.  Cohesion  many scholars speculate that  the legal register is low in cohesive devices because of the lack of clear sentence boundaries,  a phenomenon rather problematic in legal English.  However, cohesive devices, if they appear in a legal document, are distinctive.
  50.  1. Anaphora  the scarce use of reference (mainly of pronouns) and repetition, though making a legal text “heavy and monotonous” (Hiltunen 1990:84), are significant of legal documents – they avoid ambiguity.  On the other hand, the use of said and such is characteristic.  2. Conjunctions  it is possible to find some terms that contribute to cohesion, e.g. hereinafter, aforesaid, etc.
  51.  3. Substitution  it is generally considered rare in legal English, though some instances can be found.  4. Ellipsis  the concern for precision and explicitness results in the lack of intersentential ellipsis,  however an example of intrasentential ellipsis can be seen in the use of whiz- deletion.
  52.  5. Lexical Cohesion  “there is apparently much reiteration” (Danet 1985:285),  i.e. much repetition due to the avoidance of pronouns;  furthermore, synonyms, nearsynonyms and superordinate or general terms to replace expressions appearing in previous sentences are scarcely used, which is sharply contrasted to the employment of synonyms and near- synonyms in binomial and, especially, multinomial expressions.
  53.  Thematic Organization  1. Thematic progression – it is the term that implies several patterns of theme– rheme/focus arrangement in discourse.  Daneš (1974) distinguishes three such patterns of thematic progression – ◦ linear thematic progression (in two successive clauses, the rheme/focus of the first clause becomes the theme of the second); ◦ thematic progression with a continuous theme (several clauses have the same theme); ◦ and a hierarchical pattern with a hyper-theme which can be composed of several semantically related elements. The last one is said to be common in legal texts.
  54.  2. Foregrounding and backgrounding –  Danet (1985: 286) points out that there are two distinctive types of legal discourse.  The first contains both foregrounding and backgrounding, (resembles everyday discourse)  The second contains little foregrounding.  She (ibid.) gives some more explanations, “…transitivity is considered to signal foregrounding. Both supposedly go with a concern for specific episodes between individuals, while low transitivity and backgrounding are signs of a more abstract approach – a concern with the social structure in which categories of participants are related”.
  55.  3. Extreme propositional density; lack of redundancy  the extreme propositional density of legal discourse springs from the unusual length and complexity of the sentences.  Evidence can be found in the “maze of embedded clauses and prepositional phrases” (ibid.).  Propositional density results in the lack of redundancy in information that is being communicated – the reason is obvious – every word counts.
  56.  Danet, B. Legal Discourse. In: Van Dijk, T.A. Handbook of Discourse Analysis. London: Academia Press, 1985. Volume 1, pp. 273-291.  Hiltunen, R. Chapters on Legal English: Aspects Past and Present of the Language of the Law. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1990.  Urbanova, L. A Reader in English Stylistics. V Prešove: Filozoficka fakulta v Prešove, 1986.  Gustafsson, M. Binomial Expressions in Present-day English: a Syntactic and Semantic Study. Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1975.  Leech, G. N., Deuchar, M., Hoogenraad, R. English grammar for today: a new introduction. Basingstoke: Macmillan, c1982. Leech, G. N., Svartvik, J. A Communicative Grammar of English. Harlow: PEL, 2002.  Daneš, F. “Functional Sentence Perspective and the Organizing of the Text”. In Daneš, F. (ed.) Pages on Functional Sentence Perspective. Academia, 1974. pp. 106-128.