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Tradition and Change in Legal English

Verbal Constructions in Prescriptive Texts


Christopher Williams

In this volume the author examines verbal constructions in prescriptive legal texts written in English. Modal auxiliaries such as shall, may and must are analysed, as well as indicative tenses such as the present simple, and also non-finite constructions such as the -ing form and -ed participles. Results are based on specially compiled corpora of prescriptive texts coming from a wide range of English-speaking countries and also international organizations such as the European Union and the UN. The author also analyses the nature, extent and impact of the calls for change in legal language coming from the Plain Language Movement. Although legal language tends to be depicted as being highly conservative and unchanging, the author shows that in certain parts of the English-speaking world a minor revolution would appear to be taking place, while in other parts there is greater resistance to change.


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197 References Adler, Mark 1990. Clarity for Lawyers: The Use of Plain English in Legal Writing. London: The Law Society. Allen, Keith 2003. Speech Act Theory – An Overview. At http:// Asprey, Michèle 1992. ‘Shall’ must Go. The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing 3 79, 79-83. Asprey, Michèle 2003 (1991). Plain Language for Lawyers. Annandale, NSW: The Federation Press. Austin, John L. 1962 (revised version 1975). How To Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Australian Broadcasting Corporation 1998. Lingua Franca. The Battle against Gobbledygook. An Interview with Chrissie Maher, 1 August 1998. At plainenglish.html. Australian Office of Parliamentary Counsel 2000. Plain English Manual. At html#top. Baldwin, Carol M. 1999. Plain Language and the Document Revolution. Lakewood, Colorado: Lamplighter Press. Balmford, Christopher 2002. Plain Language: ‘Beyond a Movement’. Repositioning Clear Communication in the Minds of Decision- makers, Fourth Biennial Conference Proceedings of the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), Toronto, Canada, 26-29 September 2002 1-32. At INCE/ONT/PLAIN/movement/movement.pdf. Barber, Charles 1994. The English Language: A Historical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Barleben, Dale 2003a. The Plain English Movement and Present-day English Registers. At courses/6362/2/Plain.htm. 198 Barleben, Dale 2003b. Legal Language, Early Modern English and their Relationships. At courses/6362Barleben1.htm. Bennett, John M. 1989. In Defence of 'Shall'. Australian Law Journal 63, 522-525. Bennett, John M. 1990. Final Observations on the Use of 'Shall'. Australian Law Journal 64, 168-169. Benson, Robert W. 1984-85. The...

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