EJLLS Publication

Title: Legal Cultures and Drafting Traditions of Legal Texts: Study of Linguistic features and Layperson’s Comprehension
Author(s): Ngozi Pauline ANWUNA
Abstract: This paper takes into consideration some of the main linguistic features of legal texts which create particular problems of comprehesion. Specific linguistic constrains are discussed as well as influences deriving from drafting traditions and legal cultures. This is a qualitative study, based on a close reading of ten selected legal texts. Firstly, the texts were examined with respect to the presence of lexical hallmarks of legal English. A number of lexical items showing characteristic signs of legalese/formalese were identified, briefly examined and categorized according to the type of patterns they demonstrate. It was observed that legal texts have some of the following linguistic features: nominalization, long and complex sentences, impersonal constructions, wordiness and redundancy, doublets and triplets, unusual word order, discontinuous noun phrase, complex prepositional phrase, frequency of performative verbs, use of phrasal verbs, Latinism etc. It was also observed that these linguistic errors are deliberate with legal users. The linguistic devices are indispensable because according to the lawyers, they bring in precision, clarity and unambiguous and all - inclusiveness in their writing. They also use them to keep non-lawyers at a respectable distance. They equally use them to promote the solidarity of their members. The research therefore, recommends that students should make conscious effort to avoid these syntactic, as well as lexical errors that occur in legal English. Again learners of the English language are advised not to see legalese as models of the language.