June 20, 2024

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Legal Language: A special language

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Introduction

Legal language, is a specialized communication system used in the field of law. It is a technical language that is characterized by its precision, formality and specificity.

The use of legal language is essential in the drafting of laws, contracts, court rulings and other legal documents to ensure the clarity and accuracy of the terms used. Legal language is distinguished by its technical vocabulary and its particular grammatical structures.

Legal terms usually have precise definitions and are used consistently in the legal context. Furthermore, legal writing tends to be concise and precise, avoiding ambiguities and multiple interpretations. The main objective of the use of legal language is to establish rights and obligations in a clear and fair manner, as well as to preserve legal security.

Origin of Legal Language

Language –means of communication. There are around 6,500 living languages according to UNESCO survey 2016. English Language-lingua franca.

Domains of English Language:

  • EGP(English for General Purposes)
  • ESP(English for Specific Purposes)

Legal Language is an ESP which means that it has different use only for a single field of work. Legal Language is the graphic method through which India’s whole legal learning is available. It is also known as legalese.

ESP is the “branch of English Language Education which focuses on training in specific domains of English to accomplish specific academic or workplace tasks”

Thomas Orr (2005:9)

In 1066 AD, William (Duke of Normandy) defeated Prince Harold in the Battle of Hastings, making him the ruler of England. The Normans, who spoke French, governed England for three centuries, from 1066 to 1366. During their rule, they significantly impacted the English language, introducing many legal terms and phrases from French.

Over time, more Normans rose to positions of power in the courts, administration, and civil services. A statute passed in 1275 requiring judicial hearings to be held in English but documented in French, resulting in the translation of significant English documents into French.

Around 1360, Norman power began to wane, and a 1362 statute required that all legal procedures and their documentation be conducted in English.

Need of legal Language as an ESP

If you strip away all the jargon from the law, every simpleton is ready to say–What is there in all that?

Bentham, Jeremy 1843

The underlying tool that attorneys employ to negotiate the complexities of the legal system, safeguard their clients’ rights, and campaign for justice is legal language. It is the legal language, and skill in it is required for success in the legal profession.

It has some other uses as well and they are listed bellow:

Lawyers must effectively convey complicated legal concepts, arguments, and strategies to clients, judges, juries, and opposing counsel. Legal language enables them to do so in a clear and straightforward manner, ensuring that all parties engaged in a case comprehend the problems at hand.

Drafting Legal Documents: Lawyers draft legal documents such as contracts, wills, and pleadings on a regular basis. To appropriately reflect the parties’ objectives and comply with applicable regulations, these contracts must be carefully prepared in precise legal terminology.

Analysis and interpretation: Lawyers must interpret statutes, regulations, court decisions, and legal precedents. Legal language gives the capabilities needed to study and comprehend these sources, allowing lawyers to effectively argue their positions.

Courtroom Advocacy: Lawyers present their claims, cross-examine witnesses, and argue in court. To communicate legal arguments persuasively and coherently, effective oral advocacy necessitates a grasp of legal language.

Compliance and Ethics: Lawyers must follow high ethical standards and professional conduct rules. These standards are written in exact legal jargon, and lawyers must grasp and adhere to them with zeal.

Avoiding Malpractice: Legal malpractice lawsuits might arise from the misuse or misunderstanding of legal terminology. To prevent potential responsibility, lawyers must ensure that their use of legal language is correct and in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

Legalese vs simple English

Precision and Specificity: The precision and specificity of legal terminology are well established. Its goal is to provide terminology and concepts with clear and unambiguous definitions. General English, on the other hand, can be more adaptable and open to interpretation, allowing for a broader range of meanings and circumstances.

Legal language is highly formal and adheres to strict norms in its structure, vocabulary, and grammar. It frequently makes use of antique terminology, Latin words, and intricate sentence constructions. In contrast, general English is less formal and allows for more flexibility in style and tone.

Technical Vocabulary: Legal terminology is specialized and unique to the legal area. These terminology frequently have precise legal definitions that someone without legal expertise may not understand. English in general,  on the other hand, uses everyday vocabulary that is more accessible to a wider audience.

Clarity vs. Ambiguity: The goal of legal language is to reduce ambiguity and ensure accurate understanding. To avoid the potential of multiple interpretations, it employs defined terminology, precise clauses, and rigorous norms of interpretation. However, general English allows for more ambiguity and relies on context and common understanding.

Legal language is typically lengthy and complex due to the necessity for explicitness and full treatment of legal issues. It frequently contains extensive phrases, provisions, and legal rationale. In contrast, general English might be more concise and direct, concentrating on communicating information or ideas in a more accessible manner.

In short Legal language has the capability of establishing legal rights, obligations, and consequences. In a court of law, it is binding and enforceable. While general English can be compelling and influential, it does not have the same legal weight or repercussions.

Characteristics of Legalese

  1. Formality: It is highly formal and adheres to specific conventions and protocols. It often employs archaic language, Latin phrases, and formal sentence structures.
  2. Technical Vocabulary: It utilizes specialized vocabulary that is unique to the legal field. These terms have precise legal definitions and may not be commonly understood by individuals without legal training.
  3. Complexity: It can be complex and intricate. It often includes lengthy sentences, intricate clauses, and detailed provisions to cover all possible scenarios and legal implications.
  4. Legalistic Tone: It typically has a serious and authoritative tone. It is designed to convey the force and importance of legal concepts and regulations.
  5. Lack of Ambiguity: It aims to minimize ambiguity and vagueness. It relies on carefully defined terms and provisions to ensure clarity and to reduce the potential for multiple interpretations.
  6. Use of Legal Principles and Maxims: It often incorporates established legal principles, precedents, and maxims that have been developed over time to guide legal interpretation and decision-making.

Conclusion

It is crucial to note that legal language varies depending on each country’s legal system and the jurisdiction in which it is used.

Its goal, however, is always to produce a clear and uniform legal framework that governs the parties’ relationships and assures the fair application of the law.

Legal language is a specialized communication system used in the legal sector that is distinguished by its precision, formality, and specialization. Its use is critical for producing legal papers and administering justice, despite its complexity.

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