A Stylistic Analysis with a Focus on Lexical (Binomial) Expressions

Communication is a means of transmitting information, there are several ways of how people can do so. Language as an instrument of communication. The language of law is the study object of this thesis. Style is the study object of stylistics, grammar.

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The Language of Law


A Stylistic Analysis with a Focus on Lexical (Binomial) Expressions


Brno 2007



Linguistic background

Stylistic background

The need for stylistics

What is style?

Stylistic analysis

Text and Context, Text and Discourse

Situation - the Extra-linguistic Context

Levels of Stylistic Analysis

Legal discourse

The Domain of Legal Discourse

Linguistic Description of the Legal Register


Historical background of legal english

The anglo-saxon period

The norman period

towards modern legal english

The language of simplified legal documents


On the issue of binomials

Terminology and definitions

The origin and use of binomials

Linguistic characteristics of binomials

Syntactic Aspects

Semantic Aspects

Phonetic and Rhythmic Aspects


Practical part

Stylistic analysis

The aim

General characterization


Graphological and Phonological Level

Lexical Level

Grammatical Level

Discourse and Textual Level


Analyses of binomials

Thematic structure





Semantic structure of binomials

Semantic Opposition

Semantic Homoeosemy

Semantic Complementation

Semantic Hyponymy

Miscellaneous Relations





Communication is a means of transmitting information and there are several ways of how people can do so. One of them is language in its spoken and written forms. Communication means giving and getting different amounts of information and various characters and qualities of communicated messages at one time, which is conditioned by many factors such as the time, place and subject matter of what is being transmitted from the addressor to the addressee in a particular situation. The addressor communicates because he intends not only to exchange information, but he also aims at affecting the behaviour of the addressee. In perhaps more educated terms, it could be pointed out that language is the core of communication. Language as an instrument of communication presents a certain continuum of variations depending on numerous contextual aspects, such as the function of the text (e. g. whether directive, expository or narrative) ; the readership (experts, students, layman), and the role of the writer (expert, educated layman), and so on. In this sense, numerous language styles and varieties have come into existence. These are the grounds for the constant study of various domains of languages, that of law being one of them.

The study of legal language has been affected by new theories introduced into linguistics, in particular the sociolinguistic approaches and the movement for simplification of legal discourse. Due to the active research of legal discourse since the mid-seventies, many linguistic properties of legal English are fairly well understood today. Even in this domain, there are two alternatives of discourse to be examined: oral and written. In the first case, for example, the lawyer-client interaction and courtroom interaction together with their linguistic strategies are investigated. The latter, though, is more frequently the object of study because it represents a referential norm and a point of comparison for most treatises. The active research in the field of law has shown how different the two media, the spoken and written, are. Spoken legal English is not just a spoken variant of the written text. It is a different genre at the same time because there is a very tight connection between what is said, how it is said and why, and the situation in which the speech is uttered. On the other hand, written legal English seems to be the other extreme - it is constant, stable and almost context-free.

The language of law is the study object of this thesis. The theoretical part of this thesis is divided into four main chapters, each of which deals with different issues relating to the domain of law language. The aim of the chapters is to provide some basics in terms of some essential linguistic elements (Chapter One), stylistic background and the description of the legal register (Chapter Two), history of legal English (Chapter Three), and linguistic/stylistic description of binomials (Chapter Four). The character of the practical part stems from the theoretical base. There are two major objectives. The first one is aimed at a stylistic analysis of the sample documents under examination in this thesis. The other major objective includes two analyses, both of which are focused on binomials. More detailed descriptions of each objective and analysis are available in the respective chapters.

Linguistic background

language stylistics grammar

Linguistics, part of which is stylistics, is a very complex field dealing with the study of language and its related issues. A vigorous comeback of rationalism into the scientific study of language in the sixties of the twentieth century resulted in the fact that linguists have (Hiltunen 1990: 11)

increasingly turned away from idealized, intuition-based approaches to examining the actual use of language to find evidence for generalization, e. g. by studying speech and conversation as concrete data of verbal communication. In the case of written language, the study of texts has come into the foreground, especially from the point of view of the interaction between function and structure. It is largely due to this reassessment of linguistic methodology that the importances of such branches of language study as sociolinguistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis are almost taken for granted today.

Hiltunen further comments that languages are very intricate entities and linguists have been looking at them at different levels and from different angles. They have studied authentic speech, authentic speech situations and other related contexts and have come to the conclusion that there is an enormous range of variation in them. Thus it is not realistic to expect any one theory or approach to explain all their complexities (ibid.).

Not surprisingly, approaches to the domain of linguistics have varied throughout decades, perhaps even centuries. Scholars, and linguists later on, have been bringing out their views on the subject matter, altering ways of their studies of this area, and coining new terms. Proof can be found earlier than the twentieth century - in particular in the histories of synchronic and diachronic linguistics. An outline of these is to be found in e. g. Hladk (1995). Out of the number of issues and linguists that he discusses, it may seem important to mention the term inner speech form introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). He describes it as in part common to all men as part of their intellectual equipment, and in part specific to every language community - something like de Saussures parole (ibid: 16). Humboldt considered this the organizing principle of language, pointing to a variety in a language structure.

Another marking point may be viewed in the work of structuralists. Whereas the diachronic and the synchronic studies of language addressed the same subject from two angles, structuralists aimed at making a synthesis of the positive features of both approaches. It is apparent in the activities of the Prague Linguistic Society that was founded in the late twenties of the 20th century. The teachings of the Prague linguists can be - as Hladk indicates (ibid: 21) - characterised by two attributes - structural (the system and the end product of a sound change could be a different phonological system) and functional (the communicative function of language and the communicative needs are responsible for the systematic organization of the formal means and for changes in this systematic organization). Above that, they introduced the distinction between the periphery and the centre of vocabulary - distinction based on frequency. That means the most frequent lexical items are central, though very often irregular (e. g. the verbs to be, to have, names of the main parts of the body, pronouns), and peripheral are those items that are rarely used, such as nescience, a formal word for ignorance. A typical example of a peripheral grammatical unit in English is the subjunctive. Another distinct contribution to the linguistic field is those of Satzthema and Satzaussage by Vilm Mathesius, later on elaborated by Firbas and Dane. The terms in present-day use are theme (topic) and rheme (comment) (Firbas 1992).

Attempts to describe, explain and categorize the use of languages have found their way to project also into the field of stylistics, and as Hiltunen (1990: 12) states, the more concrete approaches had always been better represented there than in some other areas, for natural reasons. New terms such as register, special language, sublanguage and languages of the professions were introduced into discussions of style. He continues explaining that languages do not function in a vacuum, so the term of context and other intra- and extralinguistic ties need to be taken into account as they create a continuum. This continuum represents a scale in which the relationship between language and context is relatively tight (e. g. British Acts of Parliament) at one end, but on the other end it is relatively loose (legal textbooks, journals, documents). As a result, there are several text type continua (ibid: 12).

It was in 1882 that the word stylistic was first recorded in English. However, it is a little older. It appeared in 1860 and was modelled on the German terms stilistisch, Stilistik. It proves that it was the second half of the 19th century that stylistics as a theoretical study of style was established. Rhetoric (ME), dialogic (1601) and poetic (1727) are regarded the predecessors of stylistics.

Stylistic background

The Need for Stylistics

No language should be regarded as a readily identifiable object in reality which we can isolate and examine (Crystal, Davy 1997: 3). It is not a single homogeneous entity, but rather a huge complex of many different varieties that millions of people in dozens of countries in the world speak. In a very general viewpoint, all these people represent hundreds of varieties (or styles or registers as some other linguists may prefer to call them). A variety as such means a difference. In this sense it can be educed that all the varieties are distinct from one another and they vary to great extents, but on the other hand, they all have much more in common than one can think of - they are all varieties of one language - in this case of English. One of the greatest differences can be seen in the written and spoken forms of the language, and other in the range of Englishes that are distinguished as regional dialects.

It may be a difficult task to define what a style or variety is, what types exist, how many there are or whether they are all clearly distinguishable - these are things a stylistic theory should tell us (ibid: 4). Fortunately, speakers (at least the native ones) are aware of the differences and the rules to some extent - they use one variety at home, another at work, and a third, for example, at the doctor's. They are able to tell one from the other because they know the rules.

People communicate to transmit information, ideas, opinions and they want their communication to be successful. Definitely, by communication people get integrated into society. However, if one chooses to disregard the rules of language, or fail, through ignorance, to obey them, then language can become instead a barrier to successful communication and integration (ibid.). That is why people should acquire a sharpened consciousness of the form and function of language, its place in society, and its power (ibid: 5). Native speakers of a particular language always have an advantage

- they are born and brought up in the particular linguistic and cultural environment, so they acquire the language and the rules of its appropriate use unconsciously. Making mistakes (spelling, grammatical, inappropriate choice of vocabulary) is a rather rare phenomenon. Crystal and Davy (ibid.) confirm.

The native speaker of English of course has a great deal of intuitive knowledge about linguistic appropriateness and correctness - when to use one variety of language rather than another - which he has amassed over the years. He will probably have little difficulty in using and responding to the most ordinary uses of language, such as the everyday conversation which occupies most of our speaking and writing lifetime. Normally, in such a context, mistakes, if they occur, pass by unnoticed or are discounted as unimportant. It is with the relatively infrequently occurring, more specialised uses of language that the average English user may find difficulty.

It is the foreign learner of English who is definitely one of those most at a loss in this matter (ibid: 6). The learner does not absorb the language naturally, unconsciously or intuitively. Necessarily, he/she too needs to be made aware of the differences between common and rare types of language behaviour, and of the alternatives available in particular situations; he/she too needs to react appropriately to language, if he/she wants to be accepted (ibid.). The reason why it is not so is apparent - the learner learns only what he/she is presented with in English courses he/she attends - most commonly it is vocabulary and grammar, occasionally some information on the proper manners of expressing in certain situations (e. g. opening and closing lines in a letter). The learner's lack of the intuitive sense of linguistic appropriateness makes the problem even more complicated. It is not only grammatical correctness and fluency as such that are the measures of the learner's ability and success to use the language. Crystal and Davy (ibid: 7) give their view:

If a foreigner hopes to come to an English-speaking culture, then, he should not be in the position of having to make use of one variety of English in all situations, as so often happens. He needs to be fluent, and fluency should be here measured by his ability to conform in the approved manner to many disparate sociolinguistic situations. He needs to develop a sense of style, as it is often called - a semi-instinctive knowledge of linguistic appropriateness and (more important) taboo, which corresponds as closely as possible to the fluent native speaker's. But his ability does not come easily, and in many language- teaching institutions there is insufficient training for it ever to be gained at all.

Therefore, approaches to learning and teaching languages seem clear - the varieties of language need to be studied and taught in as much detail as it is possible, so that learners can understand the rules of their use. However, to reach this target, it is necessary that the process of study is accompanied with gaining the knowledge of relationships that exist between a particular language and its culture.

What is Style?

Generally speaking, style is the study object (but not the only one) of stylistics. What style is has always been open to dispute. The word style may be known to many human beings and they may be able to describe fairly easily what it means. Nevertheless, the multiplicity and complexity goes far beyond the word itself. The following are examples of some renowned linguists and their definitions and concepts.

Crystal and Davy (ibid: 9, 10) distinguish at least four commonly occurring senses of the term:

Style may refer to some or all of the language habits of one person- as when we talk of Shakespeare's style (or styles), or the style of James Joyce, or when we discuss questions of disputed authorshipmore often, it refers in this way to a selection of language habits, the occasional linguistic idiosyncrasies which characterise an individual's uniqueness.

In a similar way, style may refer to some or all of the habits shared by a group of people at one time, or over a period of time, as when we talk about the style of Augustan poets, the style of Old English heroic poetry, the style in which civil service forms are written, or styles of public-speaking.

Style is given a more restricted meaning when it is used in an evaluative sense, referring to the effectiveness of a mode of expression. This is implied by such popular definitions of style as saying the right thing in the most effective way or as good manners.

Partly overlapping with the three senses just outlined is the wide spread use of the word style to refer solely to literary language. Style has long been associated primarily or exclusively with literature, as a characteristic of good, effective, or beautiful writing.

After giving such an account of what the term style may mean, Crystal and Davy (ibid: 10) sum up that of the above four senses, the first and second come nearest to what we ourselves mean by style.

Leech and Short (1981: 10, 11) present their own concepts as well:

it refers to the way in which language is used in a given context, by a person, for a given purpose and so on. To clarify this, we may adopt the Swiss linguist Saussures distinction between langue and parole, langue the code or system of rules common to the speakers or writers of a language (such as English), and parole being the particular uses of the system, or selection from this system, that speakers or writers make on this or that occasion. One may say, for example, that certain English expressions belong to the official style of weather forecasting (bright intervals, scattered showers, etc.), while other expressions (lovely day, a bit chilly, etc.) belong to the style of everyday conversational remarks about the weather. Style, then, pertains to parole: it is selection from a total linguistic repertoire that constitutes a style.

Another interesting theory appears in Leech, Deuchar and Hoogenraad (1982: 9). It may seem the closest to what the term of style denotes.

language also varies according to the use to which it is put. While the term dialect is convenient to refer to language variation according to the user, REGISTER can be used to refer to variation according to use (sometimes also known as style). Register can be subdivided into three categories of language use, each of which affects the language variety. These are TENOR, MODE and DOMAIN.

As it is apparent from the above stated explanations, many linguists and other scholars have given their views, concepts and theories, but there is hardly any simple or unique definition of the term style. Taking into account all the aspects of language variations, it cannot be else.

Stylistic Analysis

Text and Context, Text and Discourse

The object of stylistic analysis is undoubtedly a particular piece of language, and that is a text. Halliday (1989: 47) expresses his view on the term.

It is a cohesive and coherent stretch of language in use which has a certain function in the context of situation. Thus, a text is a semantic unit taking part in a social exchange of meanings and may be regarded as a product in the sense that it is an entity that has a certain organization and can be recorded, and as a process, i. e. it is a continuous process of semantic choice dependent on previous choices and conditioning the subsequent ones.

Further on, Halliday explains that context can be defined as the total environment - both linguistic (also referred to as co-text) and extra-linguistic (social and physical) - in which a particular texts unfolds and creates discourse. The extra-linguistic context is also referred to as the context of situation and it is described in terms of three concepts - DOMAIN (FIELD), TENOR and MODE of discourse (in Crystal and Davy these are called PROVINCE, STATUS and MODALITY). In other words, text is very often understood as text without/out of context - it is a product and it is stative, whereas discourse is viewed as language in use/in interaction or as text in context - thus it is a process and it is dynamic.

Situation - the Extra-linguistic Context

As it has already been said in the previous chapter (1. 4), languages do not exist in a vacuum. They function in connection with a situation in which, for example a conversation, takes place. The same applies for a text (a particular piece of language). A situation has a conditioning influence on the text and its linguistic/stylistic features that makes the text different from other texts. According to Crystal and Davy (1997: 64) the notion of situation can be broken down into dimensions of situational constraints (or situational variables) and they have their own specific features. The following is the classification of the situational constraints outlined by Crystal and Davy (ibid: 66).

Dimensions of situational constraint according to the USER

Individuality - relatively permanent features of the speech or writing habits which identify someone as a specific person, distinguish him from other users of the same language, or the same variety of the language (ibid.) ; usually they do not change over quite long periods of time; the specific features constitute e. g. the quality of a person's voice, handwriting, pet words, phrases with a very high frequency of occurrence, etc.

Dialect - it indicates a person's place of geographical origin (regional dialect) ; these features are relatively constant. As Crystal and Davy suggest they change only in humorous situations, or in cases of intense social pressure which cause someone to conform to dialect patterns other than his own (ibid: 67). These features are represented e. g. in the choice of vocabulary or in the use of vowels.

Time - it means the temporal provenance of a piece of language (ibid.), in other words - the period in which the text is produced or the age of the producer. It is important not only from the point of historical study of (the English) language, but also in the sense of the development of a person's speaking habits. The features are fairly stable.

Sociolect - it constitutes a person's location on a non-linguistically based social scale (ibid.), in other words his/her social background or social class that he/she was born, brought up or educated in. In this sense, we talk about a social or class dialect. Again relatively, it does not alter.

Singularity - represents personal, occasional features that cannot (in contrast with the previous dimensions) be related to any systematic framework amongst the community to which the user belongs. These idiosyncratic linguistic features are such as e. g. introducing a linguistic originality into a poem, which has a specific effect. They are regarded as deviations from a person's normal linguistic behaviour of any kind in any situation (Crystal and Davy 1997: 76).

Dimensions of situational constraint according to the USE

Province - features that identify an utterance with those variables in an extra- linguistic context which are defined with reference to the kind of occupational or professional activity being engaged in (ibid: 71). These features do not provide us with any information about the people involved in the particular situation, because they relate only to the field of the use. Some examples of province are the language of law, advertising, science, sport, etc.

Status - it implies the systematic variations which correspond with variations in the relative social standing of the participants in any act of communication, regardless of their exact locality (ibid: 73). Crystal and Davy further explain that status is far more complex because it involves a whole range of factors related to contacts between people from different positions on a social scale - factors intuitively associated with such notions as formality, informality, respect, politeness, deference, intimacy, kinship relations, business relations, and hierarchical relations in general (ibid: 74).

Modality - it comprises such specific features which are chosen deliberately to produce an overall, conventionalised spoken or written format of the language (ibid.). Again, there are also more complex ties and more variations within this dimension as the participants of the discourse may, e. g. in the province of conversation, choose to exchange the same information via the telephone or they may write an email or a business letter. Many linguists may use the term of genre, i. e. the genre of public speech, the genre of a poem, letter, anecdote, telephone call, etc.

Discourse - under this notion Crystal and Davy (ibid: 68) subsume two types of variability of language - the first one being that of medium (the difference between speech and writing), and the other one resulting from the participation in the language event, i. e. the difference between monologue and dialogue. Consequently, speech needs to be handled initially at the phonological/phonetic level, whereas writing is treated initially from the graphitic/graphological angle. Furthermore, other differences have to be taken into account - speech passes by, writing is relatively permanent; speech usually needs personal contact, whereas writing (usually) does not; no spoken varieties can be transcribed in traditional orthography to reflect all contrasts present in speech, on the other hand, there are many written pieces of text that cannot be spoken or read without having the original graphitic coherence destroyed. For example, a piece of a legal text is punctuationless, but when it is meant to be read aloud, it needs to be broken into units (though the units do not exist in the written form).

Levels of Stylistic Analysis

The following is the levels that stylists/linguists investigate when they aim at analysing a piece of text, either written or spoken.

PHONETICS - an examination of sounds; the study of the characteristics and potential utility of human vocal noise

GRAPHETICS - the study of written or printed shapes (visual analogue of phonetics)

PHONOLOGY (PHONEMICS) - the study of the sound system of a given language; the formalised rules of pronunciation

GRAPHOLOGY (GRAPHEMICS) - the analogous study of a language's writing system; the formalised rules of spelling

GRAMMAR - both the syntactic and morphological levels need to be discussed; the aim is to analyse the internal structure of sentences in a language and the way they function in sequences; in other words, clauses, phrases, words, nouns, verbs, etc. need to be distinguished and put through an analysis to find out what is the norm (foregrounding) and what is somehow deviant (against the norm)

VOCABULARY - on the lexical level - it is the study of the way in which individual words and idioms tend to pattern in different linguistic context; on the semantic level - in terms of stylistics, it is the study of the meaning of stretches longer than the single lexical item (in linguistics, it is the study of the meaning of a single lexical item)

DISCOURSAL/TEXTUAL LEVEL - in this area, for instance, the interest lies in information processing (theme - rheme), and to what extent a text is coherent and what cohesive devices were used to achieve the particular level of coherence of the text

Legal Discourse

The Domain of Legal Discourse

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). Law has two primary functions. They are ordering human relations and 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. 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).

Linguistic Description of the Legal Register

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.

Lexical features

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. one of the most frequent instances is the term assignment - it 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Syntactic features

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.

Nominalization - this feature is considered by many linguists, Urbanov (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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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 - though legal documents are made to serve as a communication between two (or more) parties, 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.

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.

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. 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. (Binomials are discussed in detail in Chap. 4)

Prosodic features

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/.

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.

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 that there are more beats, or phonetic material, in the second half of a two-part expression (Danet 1985: 284). 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.

Discourse-level features

Cohesion - many scholars speculate that the legal register is low in cohesive devices because of the lack of clear sentence boundaries, which is a phenomenon rather problematic in legal English. However, cohesive devices, if they appear in a legal document, are distinctive.

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.

Conjunctions - it is possible to find some terms that contribute to cohesion, e. g. hereinafter, aforesaid, etc.

Substitution - it is generally considered rare in legal English, though some instances can be found.

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.

Lexical Cohesion - there is apparently much reiteration (Danet 1985: 285), i. e. much repetition due to the avoidance of pronouns; furthermore, synonyms, near- synonyms 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.

Thematic Organization

Thematic progression - it is the term that implies several patterns of theme - rheme/focus arrangement in discourse. Dane (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 hypertheme which can be composed of several semantically related elements. The last one is said to be common in legal texts. Foregrounding and backgrounding - Danet (1985: 286) points out that there are two distinctive types of legal discourse. The first contain both foregrounding and backgrounding, so it 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.

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.

It is necessary to mention that legal register is a complex subject and its features need to be viewed as separate variables in the continuum of legal discourse ranging from high to low. This is to say that many features covary, or entail one another, in differing patterns in different genres (ibid: 288). Though work of many scholars focusing on linguistic description is rather fragmentary, the origins of such a convoluted and opaque language are known. Indisputably, many lawyers justify the complexity of legal genre by claiming that it came to existence and has developed as an efficient means to specify precise, technical meanings. In contrast, there are non-professional individuals who hold the view that lawyers use opaque language in order to mystify the public and preserve their own power. In Danets view (ibid.),

syntactic complexity and the play with prosodic features are evidence of a preoccupation with language qua language. In the structuralists sense of the terms, we have a foregrounding of language, and a backgrounding of referential meanings. This type of foregrounding apparently characterizes many genres in the keys of play and ritual, but especially the latter. It is as if lawyers - or perhaps persons in earlier times, before the modern legal profession emerged - added cornstarch to language, to thicken it, to give it body, so as to crate the illusion of certainty in an uncertain world. Convoluted legal language may in part derive form preliterate times, when elaborate verbal formulas were considered a kind of word magic.


The foregoing chapters have discussed some theoretical elements of the stylistic field. At the beginning, the need for stylistics and the definition of the term style were pointed out along with several concepts of style as they are viewed by some linguists. Then, some notes on stylistic analysis were provided. In particular, the terms text, context and situation were touched upon, together with the dimensions of situational constraints. I addition, the levels of stylistic analysis were outlined. Finally, the legal register and its domain were described in terms of lexical, syntactic, prosodic and discourse-level features.

Historical background of legal english

It may appear that the early laws are native predecessors of modern laws, though in a very general sense. Hundreds of years, together with historical and social factors, have contributed to the great differences. On the other hand, there is one fundamental similarity, i. e. the functions of legal documents have remained the same even after so many centuries. The innumerous historical events caused irreversible shifts in the society on the British Isles, resulting in cultural changes and even afflicting the style of the English language in each period. The spoken and written language of the Britons gradually altered its form, both structurally and lexically. As a consequence, a great amount of English word stock is of Latin and French origin.

The Anglo-Saxon Period

It is the Anglo-Saxon period to which the oldest English legal texts are dated, though much of the material has been preserved in post-Conquest manuscripts. These are eleventh or twelfth-century copies of lost originals. The Anglo-Saxon laws were demanded even after the Norman victory in 1066, which may seem odd. There was a practical reason - new laws were modelled on the copies of old laws.

The earliest of Anglo-Saxon laws were written in the vernacular, and not in Latin. Latin would have been an obvious choice because the first English legal code coincided with the date of conversion to Christianity. The Germanic tradition (involving oral tradition) is the most important reason for the use of the vernacular. So the codification written in English reflects a natural prolongation of the tradition. Moreover, laws drafted in Latin would have seemed artificial.

In addition, Hiltunen (1990: 24) points out that the legal terminology is Anglo-Saxon with all the characteristic features of native vocabulary (e. g. compounding, transparent word formation and synonymy). There are surprisingly few loan-words, even if Latin and loan-translations are included. The Scandinavian words are also few. However, some of them are important because they are technical terms, such as gri `truce', sehtian `to settle '.

From the modern perspective, there may be three categories distinguishing the Anglo- Saxon vocabulary (ibid: 27) :

Words that have disappeared from law language - most of the items belong to this group. The reason for the changes is either social (change or loss of referent) or sociolinguistic (native words were replaced through borrowings).

Words that are still occasionally used with legal meaning (either unchanged or modified)

bot `compensation for wrongdoing' (cf. bootless)

deman `to pronounce judgement' (cf. deem)

wed `security for performance' (cf. wedding, wedlock)

witan `to know' (cf. witness)

Words that are as much part of general language as legal language

a `oath'

stelan `to steal'

Hiltunen exemplifies the proportion of native vocabulary in present-day English legal texts on a sample of a legal document. As he indicates (ibid: 28), his little experiment reveals both permanence, on the one hand, and change, on the other, in the vocabulary, which is generalizable to the whole language: the core is native but some of the layers accumulated over time are made up of borrowed elements. He concludes that the latter aspect becomes more prominent during the post-Conquest history of English legislation.

The Norman Period

The legal profession began to develop greatly after the Conquest. The Anglo-Saxons did not have any `trained lawyers' - they appeared as late as the second half of the thirteenth century. French was the language of oral pleading and the language of law books also changed from Latin to French. The legal English of today has its roots in that time. The terms that have remained are now pronounced pursuant to the rules of English phonology, their medieval meanings having been retained.

It is obvious that changes in the vocabulary were happening as a relevant aftermath of the profound and far-reaching social turnovers. English as the language of law was first replaced by Latin, later on by Norman French. Documents of the early times after the Conquest were written in so-called `Law Latin'. Citing Hiltunen (ibid: 51), Law Latin is defined as the kind of Low Latin, containing Latinized English and Old French words, used in English law. The Latin element, as well as the French, plays an essential part of the English word stock. As a result, legal English is affluent in loan words, some of which appear even in their Latin forms, e. g. mandamus or certiorari (ibid: 52). Naturally, the major part of English legal borrowings come from Latin, either directly or, more frequently, through French. In addition, Hiltunen (ibid) comes with an idea that

modern legal English is essentially a kind of `creole', where the formative elements go back to an amalgamation of native resources and extensive borrowing. The borrowing was initially a wholesale process, since English as the language of the law ceased to exist for a period of some four centuries. Naturally, the idea of creolization would not be a realistic one, had English ceased to exist altogether during that time.

Finally, he sums up that at that time the population in majority used the vernacular, and that the administration branch employed many people who knew all three languages - English, Latin and French.

Whenever an educated person reads an English text, it becomes apparent to them that French had its influence not only in terms of borrowed words, but also in terms of loaned prefixes and suffixes, many of which remained productive and contributed to the formation of legal English. The following are some examples:

prefixes: en-/em-; mal-; sur-;

suffixes: -able, -ability, -age, -al, -ance;

-ant, -ee, -fy, -fication, -ment, -ous, - (e) ry

It is noteworthy to point out that technical terms and their formation developed only gradually due to the constant use of the French words within the closed ranks of the profession. Moreover, it is clear that the core of English legal vocabulary is of French origin, and usually, the more `legal' a word is the more likely it is to be French (Hiltunen 1990: 53).

In the course of the Norman rule over the British Isles the great majority of the population spoke English, so it did not cease to be used. Eventually, the position that English had lost was regained after the Conquest. It was in 1362 that the famous Statute of Pleading was issued. Written in French, though, it deplored the use of French. However, it lasted another hundred years until the aim of the Statute became reality. Hiltunen (ibid: 56) expresses the reason.

The legal profession was accustomed to the use of French to such an extent that little could be achieved through the statute in a short time. French was preferred in the pleading on the grounds of its established terminology and the degree of precision that could be achieved by using it. There would always be a risk involved in adopting English and in giving up established conventions. In view of such linguistic and social problems a hundred years seems a relatively short time for such a profound change to be completed.

The fact that there was bilingualism, or even multilingualism, contributed to the `expansion' of English, and legal English, too. The linguistic complexity of these times is more than obvious because legal documents were compiled in all three languages in varying degrees and the languages were spoken by a large number of lawyers and the clerks of the Chancery. It was the Chancery that had an immense influence on raising the profile of English in the fifteenth century. Situated in Westminster, it was the centre of bureaucracy of the Middle Ages. It issued and operated with all the official documents, e. g. writs. They were first written in Latin, but later on in English, with occasional French translations. In this sense, the Chancery English became a standard (though it was different from the London regional dialect) and thus English was allowed to survive as an official language and restore its position.

Another highlight point in the history was the introduction of the printing press in England in 1476 when Caxton set up his press in Westminster. He adopted the norms and through the distribution of his printed material all over the country he immensely contributed to the prestige of English and spread of the `standard' language.

The first Act of Parliament in English is dated to the year of 1483. Nevertheless, as Hiltunen (1990: 57) alleges, it took another two hundred years until the whole jurisdiction and the juridical institutions became completely English speaking. The fluctuation between the three languages was ended by the year 1650 when `An Act for


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