LINGUISTIC FEATURES OF LEGAL LANGUAGE

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ABSTRACT

Legal language is a peculiar language used by law professionals designed for the sole objective of achieving justice through its normative and performative functions. In other words, it is used to impose rights and obligations, and equally regulate human behaviour and human relations. The irony is that the language that performs these essential roles in the lives of every individual sounds strange to the majority of non-professionals as a result of its uniqueness as regards the register.

The concern of this research work is to investigate the distinct features of the language of acts, wills and deeds of assignment with a view to pointing out the relationship as well as the differences between them and the general syntactic structures and semantics of the English language.

To achieve these objectives, six documents were randomly selected from the nine documents chosen for the study. As regards the method of data collection, there is direct lifting of sentences from the selected documents. For data analysis, a descriptive survey is employed. The syntactic as well as the semantic features of the selected documents were investigated.

The summary of the result of the findings are as follows: legal language has a peculiar sentence structure. The peculiarity is as a result of the use of sentences that are characterized by embedded structures most of which are in form of phrases and clause adverbials. There is also preponderant use of adjectivals, lexical repetition and unusual constructions. At the realm of semantics, the result shows that legal lexemes are made of mostly technical vocabulary. Doublets also characterize legal language. This is a situation where synonymous words are used at a time in one environment. Other semantic discoveries include the use of foreign words/expressions and local terms. Finally, there is evidence of improper use of punctuation marks.


In view of the above, a conclusion was made and vital recommendations were made.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1       Background to the Study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Purpose of the Study
1.4       Significance of the Study
1.5       Scope of the Study

CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE
2.0       Introduction
2.1       Concepts
2.1.1    Linguistics as a Field of Study
2.1.2    Levels of Linguistic Analysis
2.1.3    The Concept of Register
2.1.4    The Instrumental Roles of Language to the Field of Law
2.1.5    The Features of Legal Language
2.2       Empirical Studies

CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.0       Introduction
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Research Area
3.3       Sampling
3.4       Method of Data Collection and Analysis
3.5       Theoretical Framework

CHAPTER FOUR: PRESENTATIONS, ANALYSES OF DATA AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
4.1       Data Presentation
4.2       Analyses and Interpretation of Data
4.2.1 Syntactic Features of Legal Language
4.2.2 Semantic Features of Legal Language
4.3       Discussion on Findings

CHAPTER FIVE
5.0       Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1       Conclusion
5.2       Recommendations
WORKS CITED


CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background to the Study
It is an undoubted fact that in every human affair language is ranked first. Human beings interact with one another with ease because they share a common code that makes up the language. Language distinguishes man from animal. It is because of the use of language that man is called “a talking animal” (homo loquens) in the words of Pushphinder Syal and D.V. Jindal (6). There are, however, other means of communication used by humans such as gestures, flags, horns, braille alphabet, mathematical symbols, morse code, sirens, sketches, maps, acting, miming, dancing, to mention no more. All these systems of communication are extremely limited; they are not so flexible, comprehensive, perfect and extensive as language is (Syal and Jindal


5). With the use of language, human beings establish and maintain social relationship. Expression of thoughts, feelings and emotions are equally done through the use of language. It is mostly through language that our non-material cultural heritage is preserved. It is also through the instrumentality of language that knowledge is imparted and disputes settled. This implies that the language to be used to achieve these objectives must be clearly understood by the recipients because as soon as the bridge that holds communication collapses, the objective is defeated. The Tower of Babel in the Holy Bible, a magnificent edifice that was to be constructed, was a failure as a result of incomprehensibility of language used among the builders. Femi Akindele and Wale Adegbite define language as a system of sounds or the vocal symbols by which human beings communicate experience (2). There is no doubt that the authors, Akindele and Adegbite, are among the functional grammarians. These grammarians are interested in the social functions of language and the fact that humans use it to express themselves and to manipulate objects in their environment. Another definition given by Saussure and Harris sees language as a formal system of signs governed by the grammatical rules of combinations to communicate meaning (5). This definition stresses the fact that human language can be described as a closed structural system consisting of rules that relate particular meanings. Writing on the importance of language, Syal and Jindal affirm, ‘language is ubiquitous in the sense that it is present everywhere in all activities. It is as important as the air we breathe’ (6). The above statement lends credence to the fact that language lies at the core of social co-existence.

Language affects every sphere of life: scientific, technological, religious, social, personal and interpersonal spheres. Each of these different spheres selects the language it uses. By implication, every profession has its own type of language for effective communication. The concept register, therefore, refers to this variation of language according to use. One of the main characteristics of register, as Yule puts it, is that it is the use of special jargons. To him, jargon is the ‘technical vocabulary associated with a special activity or group’ (245). He is of the opinion that jargon helps to connect those who see themselves as ‘insiders’ in some way while excluding ‘outsiders’. Following this argument, sports commentary, medical reports, and advertisement are linguistically different.

Law, just like every other discipline, has its own peculiar language, which may seem arcane to the majority of the masses. The peculiarity of a legal proceeding or document is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, it has been.... 

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