Interpersonality in Legal Genres

by Ruth Breeze (Volume editor) Maurizio Gotti (Volume editor) Carmen Sancho Guinda (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection 410 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 191


Few concepts in Discourse Studies are so versatile and intricate and have been so frequently contested as interpersonality. This construct offers ample terrain for new research, since it can be viewed using a range of diverse theoretical frameworks, employing a variety of analytical tools and social perspectives.
Studies on the relationship between writer/reader and speaker/audience in the legal field are still scarce, dispersed, and limited to a narrow range of genres and a restricted notion of interpersonality, since they are most often confined to modality and the Gricean cooperative principles.
This volume is meant to help bridge this gap. Its chapters show the realisation and distribution of interpersonal features in specific legal genres. The aim is to achieve an expansion of the concept of interpersonality, which besides modality, Grice’s maxims and other traditionally interpersonal features, might comprise or relate to ideational and textual issues like narrative disclosure, typography, rhetorical variation, or Plain English, among others.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Framing Interpersonality in Law Contexts
  • 1. Interpersonality as a fuzzy paradox
  • 2. Interpersonality in legal discourse
  • 3. Contents of the volume
  • 3.1. Interactions among legal experts
  • 3.2. Interactions between legal experts and mixed audiences
  • 3.3. Interactions between legal experts and lay people
  • 4. Closing remarks
  • References
  • Interactions among Legal Experts
  • “The words are plain and clear…”: On Interpersonal Positioning in the Discourse of Judicial Interpretation
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Materials and methods
  • 3. Results
  • 3.1. Interpersonal positioning in SCI judgments
  • 3.2. Interpersonal positioning in ECJ judgments
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References
  • Interpersonality and Fundamental Rights
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Right to language and linguistic rights
  • 3. Material and Methods
  • 3.1. Metadiscourse
  • 3.2. Interpersonal metafunction
  • 4. Analysis of interpersonal markers
  • 4.1. Analysis of the words of authority as markers of interpersonality
  • 4.1.1. Mandatory shall
  • 4.1.2. May conferring discretionary powers
  • 4.1.3. Should communicating the correct procedure
  • 4.2. Discussion of the words of authority
  • 5. Conclusions
  • References
  • Contractual Commitment or Obligation? The Linguistic Interactions in Charter Parties
  • 1. Charter parties in context
  • 2. Charter parties as a genre
  • 2.1. The formal level
  • 2.2. The discursive level
  • 2.3. The pragmatic level
  • 3. Genre in context: Analysis of GENCON
  • 3.1. Formal aspects of GENCON
  • 3.1.1. The lexicon of GENCON
  • 3.1.2 .The syntax of GENCON
  • 3.2. Textual aspects of GENCON
  • 3.3. The pragmalinguistics of GENCON
  • 4. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Interpersonal and Interactional Markers in Legal Research Articles
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Material and methodology
  • 3. Results
  • 3.1. The pragmatic level
  • 3.2. The textual level
  • 3.3. Morpho-syntactic level
  • 4. Discussion
  • 5. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Stance in a Professional Legal Genre: The Barrister’s Opinion
  • 1. Stance and evaluation
  • 2. Stance in the barrister’s opinion
  • 3. The study
  • 4. Stance towards audience
  • 5. Stance towards claims
  • 5.1. Uncertainty about facts
  • 5.2. Uncertainty about adversary’s position
  • 5.3. Uncertainty about the legal argument
  • 5.4. Resolution of uncertainty in expert and novice texts
  • 5.5. Self-mention and boosting
  • 6. Discussion and conclusions
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Appendix 1: Text A, Expert text (B1)
  • Appendix 2: Text B, Novice text (S14)
  • Interactions between legal experts and mixed audiences
  • Interpersonal Constraints in Statutory Writing
  • 1. Background
  • 2. Contextual configuration of statutory drafting
  • 3. Participation management in statutory drafting
  • 4. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Engagement in NTSB Decisions on Aviation Case Appeals
  • 1. Contextualizing the genre
  • 1.1. Pedagogical and scholarly contexts
  • 1.2. Professional context
  • 2. Methodology
  • 3. Findings: Engagement features
  • 3.1. Organisational engagement
  • 3.2. Metadiscursive engagement
  • 3.3. Embedded engagement
  • 4. Concluding remarks
  • Acknowledgments
  • References
  • Multinational corpus
  • Interpersonality in Legislative Drafting Guides and Manuals: the Case of the Scottish Government Publication Plain Language and Legislation
  • 1. Characteristics of legislative drafting guides and manuals and the role of interpersonality
  • 1.1. The question of authorship
  • 1.2. The question of readership
  • 2. Interpersonality and the Scottish Government publication Plain Language and Legislation
  • 2.1. An overview of the booklet
  • 2.2. Interpersonal features of the booklet and the question of authorship and readership
  • 3. Conclusions
  • References
  • Primary sources
  • Exploring the Interplay Between Discursive and Professional Practices in Domain Name Arbitration Awards
  • 1. Introduction
  • 1.1. Interpersonality as a generative metaphor
  • 2. Genres and the discursive practices of professional discourse
  • 2.1. Domain name arbitrators’ professional practice
  • 2.2. Panel decision
  • 3. Textual analysis
  • 3.1. Dialogically expansive strategies
  • 3.2. Dialogically contractive strategies
  • 3.2.1. Identical or confusingly similar
  • 3.2.2. Rights or legitimate interests
  • 3.2.3. Bad faith
  • 3.3. Heteroglossically disengaged strategies
  • 4. Conclusions
  • References
  • Interpersonal Patent Relations: Persuasion Pointers to Novelty, Creativity, and Ownership in U.S. Patent Property Claiming
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. United States patents in a nutshell
  • 3. Previous research on the patent genre
  • 4. Corpus data
  • 5. Interpersonality strategies in U.S. patents
  • 6. Conclusion
  • References
  • Interactions between legal experts and lay people
  • The Discursive Construction of Professional Relationships through the Legal Letter of Advice
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The structural framework
  • 3. Building and shaping relationships
  • 3.1. Textual roles of I, we and you
  • 3.2. Asserting truth and leaving room for doubt
  • 3.3. Maintaining a professional tone
  • 3.4. Defining professional voices
  • 4. Developing guidelines
  • 5. Conclusions
  • References
  • Source of letters used for corpus
  • Interpersonality in Mediation Discourse
  • 1. Aims and method
  • 2. Establishing a neutral role
  • 3. Evaluating positions and expectations
  • 4. Coping with conflicts
  • 5. Dealing with emotional outbursts
  • 6. Facilitating consensus
  • 7. Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix
  • Wonderbrandski A/O vs. Alcopops Inc (Traditional Mediation)
  • Roadbuilder vs. Transportation Department (Online Mediation 1)
  • Rhonda McDonald vs. Easy Living Apartments (Online Mediation 2)
  • The Realization of Interpersonality Features in Jury Instructions
  • 1. Jury trials in the US
  • 2. Pragmatic aspects of jury instructions
  • 2.1. Speech acts and legal language
  • 2.2. The functional nature of jury instructions
  • 2.3. Jury instructions and the Plain English movement
  • 3. Interpersonality in jury instructions
  • 4. Analysis
  • 4.1. The case
  • 4.2. Jury instructions in SCO vs Novell
  • 4.2.1. Preliminary instructions: addressing the participants
  • 4.2.2. Explanatory approaches
  • 4.2.3. Final instructions
  • 5. Conclusions
  • References
  • The Management of Conflict: Arbitration in Corporate E-releases
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The Kraft Foods v Starbucks case
  • 3. The arbitration press release
  • 3.1. First-person reference and ‘egocentrism’
  • 3.2. The pragmatics of the principle of confidentiality
  • 4. Managing conflict: dialogism and monoglossia
  • 4.1. Monoglossia
  • 4.2. Dialogic expansion
  • 4.3. Dialogic contraction
  • 4.4. Damage control: ‘When things get rough, the rough get going’
  • 5. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index


Framing Interpersonality in Law Contexts

1. Interpersonality as a fuzzy paradox

Few concepts in Discourse Studies are so versatile and intricate and have been so frequently contested as interpersonality. This construct not only offers diverse perspectives and research topics depending on the linguistic schools and theoretical frameworks it is viewed from, or the instrumental tools employed in its analysis, but also across successive social spheres. It is moulded by national cultures, registers, disciplines, genres, and private intentions, as well as by the media and the communicative situation – the nature and size of audiences, for example – through which all of them are transmitted. Clearly, the notion is versatile due to the dynamism inherent in every social group, and particularly within specialized communities, where established conventions may change and new genres emerge and make use of the latest technologies to produce and disseminate knowledge. What is not so evident, however, is the boundary between the two basic elements assumed to integrate the interpersonality construct: stance and engagement (Hyland 2005). They hold a circular relationship (Sancho Guinda/Hyland 2012), fuzzy and full of overlaps, since engaging with interlocutors (or opting for not doing so) inevitably entails adopting a stance on them, and taking and disclosing such posture intentionally is per se an act of engagement.

In this sense, general scholarly labels such as evaluation (Hunston/Thompson 2000), stance as a conjunction of ideational, interpersonal, and stylistic stands (Biber/Finegan 1989, Biber 2006, Jaffe 2009, Gray/Biber 2012), positioning (Harré/van Langenhove 1999), point of view (Simpson 1993), footing (Goffman 1981) and appraisal (Martin 2000, Martin/White 2005) aptly reflect this circularity. The ← 9 | 10 → fuzziness intrinsic to interpersonality becomes even more patent when another superordinate term, voice, is invoked, often as a synonym. Do they in actual fact refer to the same phenomenon? The answer is yes and no. Both subsume stance and engagement (that is, the different kinds of stance), are qualified as dialogic, and imply a certain degree of subjectivity, but voice seems to incorporate an expressionist nuance of stylistic distinctiveness, of ‘authorial imprint’, either individual or collective – if there is really such a dichotomy, as Prior (2001) doubts, because society always mediates individual choices. Voice and interpersonality are subjective because they depend on the addressee’s impression (Tardy 2012) to be identified, and may be metaphorically or literally dialogic. Recent investigations (e.g. Gil Salom/Soler Monreal 2014) have drawn on this aspect, which some might take as tautological given that dialogism (Bakhtin 1981) is connatural to language in interaction. In light of all this, interpersonality should be certainly understood as fuzzy, but also as paradoxical and gradable: it embraces two categories (i.e. stance and engagement) that in reality fuse in one (stance/evaluation/positioning or any other of the aforementioned ‘general labels’) and evolves along a multiple continuum of uniqueness (determined by a relative stability of its features within communities, despite its permanent dynamism), explicit dialogism, and subjectivity. Therefore, some texts are more interactive – more ‘dialogic’– and easily recognizable, in stylistic terms, than others.

To complicate matters further, this interpersonal fuzziness may arise from several sources: the openness of the construct, its motivation, its multifunctionality, and its multidimensionality. The inventory of interpersonal devices is by no means closed, and researchers speak of ‘potential features’ (e.g. Hiltunen 2010, in relation to ‘existential there’ as readability resource and stage labeller in academic research articles). Among them, discourse areas such as rhetorical manipulation, interdiscursivity conceived as shared knowledge, the selection, prominence and ordering of contents, punctuation and layout/format, rhythm in speech and written prose (set by syntax, cadence, euphony and prosody and impinging on memorability), shifts in attribution, genre bending and manipulation for communal purposes, or choices regarding the medium and channel ← 10 | 11 → of dissemination, still constitute untapped sites of study for the applied linguist interested in pinning down the idea of interpersonality and refining its taxonomies.

Interpersonality may show accidentally, as a ‘give-off’ (Goffman 1959) betraying the speaker or the writer, but may also be intentional and seek alignment with the community of practice by complying with its conventions, or show deference towards its outsiders. These actions are not mutually exclusive and form the conceptual tandem proximity/ positioning (Hyland 2010), which turns interpersonality into a ‘two-way street’. A case in point is the use of multifunctional metadiscourse in specialised texts: items such as evidentials (e.g. citations) simultaneously provide background information for those who need it, telling them where to obtain it, disclaim the knowledge being transmitted in accordance with the honesty and modesty code of academia or the profession, and show competence (i.e. scholarly authority), which creates a gap between the expert sender and his/her lay addressees.

Similarly, attitudinal boosters of the type clearly, obviously, certainly, truly, etc., draw a line between the knowledgeable insider and the uninformed listener/reader, yet signposting what is taken for granted among experts within their community – shared notions, perceptions and deductions considered elementary and that gauge the knowledge of non-members and cue them about the expertise they should acquire to join in. More vehement interactional items of this type, such as needless to say or it goes without saying embody this category of (superfluous?) tacitness-breakers that inform readers of the interlocutors’ perceived relationship from either side. Of course, the interpersonal relationship or tenor between participants is partly shaped by the writer/speaker-reader/listener role, which includes the degree of interlocutor-considerateness (i.e. more or less reader/listener-responsibility, pointed to by Purves 1988 or Hyland 2004) and the higher and lower foregrounding/ backgrounding of the content or the person behind it in the national and disciplinary cultures. Another central issue is what ‘community membership’ actually means, because inside the specialist group coexist multiple communicative purposes and there are asymmetrical power ← 11 | 12 → relationships as well, and not everyone may wish to become an insider or think it is beneficial.

When communicative multifunctionality transcends sentence-level and affects the social repercussion of the whole text, we may be witnessing ‘genre manipulation’ (Hyland 2004) or ‘discursive appropriation’ (Bhatia 2004). Genres fulfil broad and narrow purposes and implement them through interpersonal devices, which span a cline whose poles are the informational and persuasive goals. The promotional component, every day more pervasive, is ‘colonizing’ (Bhatia 2004) texts that were strictly informational in the past. For example, at the time Vázquez and Giner (2009) held that judgments were seldom promotional, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board was just beginning to divulge online its highly reader-oriented case appeal decisions (see Sancho Guinda, this volume), which in addition brand the institution as transparent and democratic, following the Freedom of Information Act’s guidelines, so representative of the all-American spirit. This promotional matter may go unnoticed to genre users, as not all instances of social purposes are expressed overtly and prototypically, resembling one another and making up genre families and colonies (Bhatia 2004). Its detection depends instead on the user’s ability to read between the lines.

Interpersonality is not determined by the social purpose of the genre, but the two interact (again fuzzily and circularly) on several planes: topical, rhetorical, sentential, phrasal, lexical, phonological, phonetic, proxemic, and kinesic within the text (Bhatia’s 2012 ‘text-internal factors’), which generate – and are in turn generated by – communal expectations concerning aims, audiences and situational contexts, assumptions of shared knowledge, the strategic management of gatekeeping, and intertextuality (‘text-external factors’, Bhatia 2012). Internal and external factors thus enmesh multidimensionally and bidirectionally (from the individual to society and vice versa) to convey different sorts of meaning. On the one hand, there is ideational opinion or stance, aimed to inform but in legal settings also normally expressed to persuade or influence. On the other, we must consider solidarity with the interlocutor in the form of deference/engagement, aimed to facilitate comprehension by making the text intelligible to outsiders. Between both, as an intersection, there are attitudinal ← 12 | 13 → meanings that may fluctuate from adherence and empathy to dissent, opposition, or rejection (e.g. ‘affect’, ‘judgment’ and ‘appreciation’, evaluating emotions, ethics and aesthetics according to systemic-functional classifications, Martin 2000). As Hafner and Mazzi remind us in their respective chapters (this volume), no text is ever completely impersonal, and in view of all the textual and contextual variables at play, accomplishing the claim made by Candlin, Bhatia and Jensen (2002) – to teach interpersonality explicitly across legal genres –becomes no easy task.

2. Interpersonality in legal discourse

It is commonly said that legal discourse is characterised by a highly impersonal style, and that features of interpersonality are scarcely present in it (Bhatia 1982, Hiltunen 1990, Tiersma 1999). The avoidance of the use of these features is not at all arbitrary, but derives from the main pragmatic principles specific to the legal field and the high degree of conservatism typical of the law. Although there are movements in many countries advocating use of more ordinary language, most legal specialists continue to follow the practices codified by centuries of use. An example of the avoidance of interpersonality is seen in the non-use of adjectival/pronominal anaphoric reference in legal texts. This kind of reference is familiar in common language but far less so in legal writing, where it is normally avoided in favour of lexical repetition. This preference stems from the need for maximum clarity and avoidance of ambiguity, a typical trait of legal discourse.

Important elements of a particular legal system are its drafting tradition and stylistic conventions. These may differ in civil law and common law texts: the former are mainly characterised by generality, while the latter prefer particularity. Indeed, it is commonly asserted that civil law statutes are written in terms of principle, whereas common law regulations are written in detail as “the civil code ← 13 | 14 →draftsman is eager to be widely understood by the ordinary readership, whereas the common law draftsman seems to be more worried about not being misunderstood by the specialist community” (Bhatia 1993: 137). This difference may be observed also in contracts: the common law rules typically give great authority to the wording of the document, while the civil law systems put more emphasis on the actual intent of the parties at the time when the agreement was entered into. This conceptual differentiation is reflected in the drafters’ stylistic choices: in common law legislation sentences are very long, consisting of three or more main clauses, each modified by many subordinate clauses; this remarkable sentence length is required by the great number of details to be inserted and the need that specifications should be precise and clear. Civil law sentences are shorter, with a less strict use of paragraphing; this makes the understanding of the sentences easier, but renders the reconstruction of the relationship between the various sentences more complex. To limit the interpretative difficulties of statutes and contracts, in the last few years legal drafters have adopted a more interpersonal approach, with particular emphasis on explicit textual schematisation (Driedger 1982) dividing the text into ordered sections and subsections. By arranging content schematically, drafters can thus construct less cognitively-demanding texts.

One of the phenomena that most distinguishes legal discourse is compliance with the norms governing the construction of its different text genres. There is usually a close link between the type of legal text and its structure, which in turn implies a number of correlations between the conceptual, rhetorical and linguistic features that characterise the text itself. Genre not only provides a conventional framework but also affects all other textual features and constrains their conceptual and rhetorical development. With time, several text types have arisen – some derived from genres common in general language, others crafted specifically to meet the needs of specialists. Through training and professional engagement, specialists learn to follow given norms and patterns in each type of text. The conventional use of genres also produces certain expectations among readers, and whenever the rules are broken, a text may be misunderstood or ← 14 | 15 → rejected. Textual standardisation occurs in all disciplinary fields but it is stronger in legal genres.

Discourse analysts have discovered the importance of the genre concept for the interpretation of discourse, to get a better understanding not only of the linguistic characteristics of texts, but also of the macrostructure of these texts, which appears to be organised according to genre expectations and conventions rooted in the socio-cultural context. For this reason, in recent years genre theory has looked more broadly at context, paying particular attention to a more comprehensive understanding of text/context interactions and focusing not simply on the form and content of genres, but more importantly on how genres are constructed, interpreted, used and exploited in the achievement of specific goals in highly specialised contexts. Indeed, any communicative situation combines several contextual factors, making it difficult to attribute a given linguistic peculiarity to a single originating factor. This awareness has led scholars to group together the contextual factors capable of identifying the parameters which distinguish different genres within a specialised language.

According to this perspective, also the analysis of interpersonal features has acquired greater importance. Thus, for legal language, Danet (1980) adapted Joos’ (1961) stylistic categories for degree of formality to the different modes of text production (distinguishing between WRITTEN and ORAL, with the former subdivided into COMPOSED and SPONTANEOUS). By this route she developed a sociolinguistic scheme for the genres of legal language, which characterises each legal genre in terms of its style (frozen, formal, consultative, or casual). There are genres – e.g. wills, contracts and insurance policies – which combine highly formal traits with features typical of the written mode. Others, although written and formal (e.g. statutes, briefs, appellate opinions) exhibit a less frequent use of standard and repetitive clauses, on a par with that of witness examinations and motions, which belong to the oral mode. Even oral texts, however, may contain highly formal traits, as observed for example in verdicts, wedding vows and oaths. These genres are highly codified and typically exhibit standardised, easily predictable sentences, often amounting to formulaic expressions. There are also ← 15 | 16 → less predictable genres, however, which allow for a greater degree of spontaneity and variation, both in content and expressiveness. They are usually oral and take on different levels of formality: higher in witness examinations or expert statements, lower in non-expert statements and client-lawyer conversation, right down to the informality of private conversation between lawyers.

The analysis of legal genres has also shown the use of specific discursive conventions based on the exploitation of specific interpersonal features. For example, analyses of courtroom interactions during legal proceedings (Gibbons 2003, Anesa 2012) have shed light on the considerable divergences between the standard norms of verbal interaction and legal norms, especially in the case of cross-examination of suspects and witnesses, which may be crucial to the outcome of the trial. The examining lawyer exploits all his linguistic skills to obtain admissions, substantiation, contradictions and other evidence to prove his version of the facts.

As regards recent studies on interpersonality in legal genres, while there is a vast body of literature on the construction of interpersonality in academic, scientific, and technical genres, this topic remains under-researched in legal contexts. Some of the interpersonal aspects that have been investigated in recent studies on legal discourse are the communicative impact of modality and performativity (Garzone 2001, Charnock 2009, Takahashi 2009, Williams 2009), metadiscourse and other types of deference towards the audience (Buscetti 2006; Pascual 2006; Breeze 2011), the use of vagueness (Endicott 2000; Bhatia et al. 2005, Arinas Pellón 2012), the observance of the Cooperative Principle (Frade 2002; Pavličková 2010), argumentation and the interpersonal dimension of judgments (Bowles 2002; Mazzi 2007), strategies of textual simplification and easification (Bhatia 1993, 2010), as well as investigations in the fields of identity (Sala 2010, Gotti 2011a), power relationships and appeals to authority (Gotti 2011b, Hafner 2013).

As has been seen in this brief overview, studies on the relationship between writer/reader and speaker/audience in the legal field have been, although very valuable, still scarce, dispersed, and limited to a narrow range of genres and a restricted notion of interpersonality, most often confined to modality and the Gricean cooperative ← 16 | 17 → principles. This is the main reason that prompted us to co-edit this volume, by means of which we intend to help bridge this gap. We have thus invited the submission of current research-based chapters written by specialists adopting a genre approach and doing a systematic analysis of language to show the realisation and distribution of interpersonal features in specific legal genres. The aim was to achieve an expansion of the concept of ‘interpersonality’, which besides modality, Grice’s maxims and other traditionally interpersonal features (such as metadiscursive guidance, pragmatic presuppositions and implicatures, politeness devices, style, voice, tone, pronominal use, etc.), might comprise or relate to ideational and textual issues like narrative disclosure, typography, rhetorical variation, or Plain English, among others. As will be seen in the presentation of the volume below and in the chapters themselves, the contributors have succeeded in offering their interpretative views by means of a wide range of theoretical frameworks and combined approaches, such as Genre Theory, (Critical) Discourse Analysis, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Stylistics, and Pragmatics.

3. Contents of the volume

3.1. Interactions among legal experts

The first five chapters in this book examine the interpersonal features of interactions between legal experts, with a scope that encompasses legislative practices, judgments and complaints, shipping contracts, and academic law research. In all of these areas, skilled members of the discourse communities of law can be seen to operate effectively within the interpersonal frameworks of specific genres that have evolved to fulfil concrete communicative purposes. In some cases, such as the ‘charter party’ used in shipping, the interaction may seem highly formalised, if not rigidly formulaic. In others, such as judicial ← 17 | 18 → or academic writing, experts muster a wide range of stance and engagement resources with a view to persuading their audience to accept their arguments. It is interesting to note that in certain cases, such as that of EU directives, legal writers take greater trouble to present their arguments more convincingly than might be expected given their authoritative role, presumably in order to preempt opposition of a political nature.

The discourse of judges has long been a key focus of interest for linguists interested in the interactions between language and the law. In the first chapter, Davide Mazzi uses the tools of corpus linguistics to explore interpersonality in judicial language at crucial moments in the decision-making process in common law and non-common law contexts, namely at the Supreme Court of Ireland (SCI), and at the European Court of Justice (ECJ). He found that the assertive tone adopted by SCI judges when proposing interpretations of key terms contrasted with a somewhat milder mode of expression used for identifying reliable sources. These judges also tended to adopt a pragma-dialectic mode of argumentation, based on the need to resolve perceived differences of opinion effectively and reasonably. On the other hand, ECJ judges appeared to be less likely to modulate their discourse or argue pragmatically: instead, their discourse suggested that they tended to speak in the name of the court, projecting their role as that of proceeding impersonally towards legal truth on the basis of accepted interpretations of their sources and the principles that inform them. The ECJ judges appeared to open up a smaller discursive space, and to devote less attention to the possible ambiguity of key terms, in a style that Mazzi characterises as ‘less tolerant towards judicial dissent’ than that of the Irish judges. Mazzi concludes that judges make use of different interpersonal strategies to construct their role as adjudicators at the highest courts of appeal in these two different settings. Irish judges show a propensity to negotiate their standpoint with the expert readership within their own tradition, while ECJ judges adopt an impersonal style, speaking in the name of ‘the court’, and avoiding reference to ambiguity or personal decision-making.

In chapter two, Tarja Salmi-Tolonen analyses an EU directive to investigate the interpersonal discursive means used by the EU to ← 18 | 19 → communicate with its member states. EU directives are prescriptive documents belonging within the category of legislation, which are used to direct the legislators of the member states to take measures that will implement their purpose. Their discourse is thus informative and directive, in accordance with the addressees’ expectations. Since the primary addressees are the law-makers and law-providers in member states, who share the same professional language as the drafters of the directive, there is less attempt to adapt to the general public than there might be, say, in the case of national legislation. Notably, however, the drafters of the directives also appear to perceive a need to persuade stakeholders in member states to subscribe to the values and principles that shape the directive, and their framing includes explanations of the motives and background that underlie it. Salmi-Tolonen’s analysis reveals a range of stance and engagement features that are used to negotiate interpersonal relations with addressees. Noteworthy among these are the interactional resources used to convince the law-takers of the law-makers’ good intentions, with a heavy emphasis on ‘individual rights’ and ‘respecting rights’, which offsets competing discourses of ‘harmonisation’ within the EU. She also points out how directives make use of the vague phraseology that has been found to be typical in legislative texts. Importantly, the vocabulary of the directives includes many positive, inclusive terms which may be intended to exert a persuasive function on the recipients, in order to draw them into ‘furthering the cause’ sponsored by the directive itself. She also includes an analysis of shall, should and may in this context, exploring the way in which EU directives tend to use shall for mandatory duties and norms, should for correct procedures, and may for conferring discretionary powers. Her chapter thus offers interesting material for comparison with analyses of other legislative genres.

In the next chapter, María de los Ángeles Orts investigates the interpersonal structure of ‘charter parties’, that is, the contracts made out between ship owners and the persons who charter a vessel, usually in order to transport freight. Charter parties generally consist of a set of complex clauses drafted in classically archaic legal English and specialised maritime terminology. Orts analyses the charter parties issued by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) in ← 19 | 20 → terms of their lexical and syntactic features, as well as their pragma-linguistic structure. She contends that in pragmatic terms, unlike many types of contract, the charter party is less an exchange of symmetrical promises than an asymmetrical set of directives issued for the benefit of the ship owner. The distribution of rights and obligations is thus patently uneven, and there is a striking absence of commissives that would bind the owners. Orts’s analysis sheds light on the sophisticated use of interpersonality (including impersonality) in steering the discourse of the document to protect the shipowners’ interests while protecting the face of both parties. She concludes that the success of these contracts in achieving the desired transactional outcome means that their use is actually increasing in the international shipping community. This is an instance in which a well-organized professional group has successfully managed to develop and administer a genre that structures reality to further its own ends.

Next, Michele Sala’s chapter explores interpersonality in a very different legal setting, namely that of academic research. He focuses on interrogatives, which are particularly prominent in legal academic work, perhaps under the cross-influence of other discipline-related discursive practices such as are found in courtroom language. The model he uses to investigate these interrogative resources is designed around a complex framework which accommodates the pragmatic, textual and morpho-syntactic levels of analysis. Sala examines various types of interrogative, including leading questions (or ‘conducive’ questions), which have an evaluative function, real questions (or ‘non-conducive’ questions), which are instrumental in introducing meanings, and ‘mention’ questions, which aid the cognitive processing of information. He also devotes particular attention to pseudo-dialogical question-answer pairs, which serve strategically to close down certain areas of discussion and focus the reader’s attention on the writer’s argument. Sala contends that the informative and persuasive character of research papers in law (compared, say, with research articles in empirical disciplines) means that the writer has to bring to bear a wide range of interpersonal resources, in order to convince his/her audience. The writer thus compensates for what may be missing, questionable or problematic at the ideational level by constructing claims which are acceptable not because their content is ← 20 | 21 → incontrovertible, but because of the convincing way they are phrased. The specific role played by interrogative forms, especially the more evaluative formulations, in this dialogic process goes a long way towards explaining their high frequency in legal academic texts.

Finally, Christoph Hafner’s chapter addresses the issue of interpersonal resources in the barrister’s opinion, a document intended to provide a balanced legal view on a particular case for the solicitor representing the client involved. Such opinions have a twofold purpose: to provide an objective assessment of the lay client’s legal position, and to give subjectively-oriented advice on how to proceed in tactical terms. This means opinions are also subject to a certain tension between the need to present a clear opinion, and the duty to indicate to the reader where uncertainty may lie. Hafner contrasts opinions written by practising barristers and those composed by postgraduate law students in order to shed light on areas of difficulty in the acquisition of an appropriate professional voice. One particular area of interest that emerges concerns the handling of uncertainty. Experienced barristers show a variety of ways of dealing with the need to indicate areas that are not clear without sacrificing the confident, authoritative tone of their opinions. Uncertainty concerning facts tends to be signalled through negative constructions, which serve to limit the scope of what is stated to situations in which the positive information holds. Uncertainty about the adversary’s position is expressed through a range of classic epistemic stance devices. Uncertainty about a legal argument, on the other hand, is often indicated through the use of conditional sentences. Thus, experienced legal opinion writers succeed in indicating areas of uncertainty without undermining their own authoritative presentation of the case. In writing by novice lawyers, however, the management of uncertainty causes some difficulty: the excessive use of inappropriate epistemic devices tends to undermine the writer’s argument and make the opinion appear hesitant and unprofessional. Hafner also points to other features that reinforce the writer’s authoritative voice, such as the striking use of the first person singular: the solicitor who receives the barrister’s opinion has requested a confident analysis from a professional with considerable expertise, and the frequent use of I enables the barrister to invoke the personal authority that is expected ← 21 | 22 → in this situation. He concludes that novice writers must align themselves with the values and discourses that prevail in their profession in order to attain full membership of the disciplinary community.

3.2. Interactions between legal experts and mixed audiences


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (May)
Grice¿s maxims narrative disclosure typography modality rhetorical variation
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 410 pp., num. tables

Biographical notes

Ruth Breeze (Volume editor) Maurizio Gotti (Volume editor) Carmen Sancho Guinda (Volume editor)

Ruth Breeze has researched and published widely in the area of Discourse Analysis applied to media language and specialised discourse, focusing particularly on the field of legal English. She is Head of the Institute of Modern Languages at the University of Navarra, and a member of the GradUN Research Group in the Instituto Cultura y Sociedad. Maurizio Gotti is Professor of English Language and Translation, Head of the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Communication, and Director of the Research Centre for LSP Research (CERLIS) at the University of Bergamo. His main research areas are the features and origins of specialized discourse. Carmen Sancho Guinda is a senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, where she teaches English for Academic Purposes and Professional Communication. Her research focus is the interdisciplinary analysis of academic and professional discourses and genres, and innovation in the teaching and learning of academic competencies.


Title: Interpersonality in Legal Genres
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410 pages