ERIC Number: ED318248
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1990
Reference Count: N/A
Linguistic Aspects of Legal Language.
Crandall, JoAnn; Charrow, Veda R.
Efforts to simplify language used in consumer documents come from the consumer movement and a public disillusioned with big business and government. Even before President Carter's 1978 executive order mandating simplification in government regulations, some agencies were revising regulations for clarity. However, these efforts were based on too little knowledge of language complexity. The little existing research on legal language suggests that, more than by a specialized vocabulary, it is characterized by overly complex sentences, the overuse of passives, whiz-deletion and unclear pronoun reference, archaic and misplaced prepositional phrases, and its own set of articles and demonstrative pronouns. The historical development of legal language is unique, paralleling but independent of the development of the rest of English. Legal language is both the medium of communication and the primary tool of the legal profession, and is powerful because it carries the force of law. Some of the vagueness and ambiguity of legal language is intentional, reflecting compromise and capitulation to the complexity of issues. Some of these problems persist in the rewriting of regulations. In addition, precedent, often linked to language usage, is central to common law. Attempts to simplify legal language have been through readability formulas and editing, but resistance and inherent language complexity make change difficult. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A