European Journal of Law Reform

Article

Plain Language in Legal Studies

A Corpus-Based Study

Keywords legal discourse, metadiscourse, epistemic modality, personalization, code glosses
Authors Michele Sala
Author's information

Michele Sala
Michele Sala is a researcher in English Language and Translation at the University of Bergamo, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Communication Studies.
  • Abstract

      This article investigates the influence of Plain Language in legal academic research. The Plain Language Movement (PLM) in Anglophone cultures and Common Law systems considerably affected the way legal experts and practitioners use the language in professional contexts, both in writing and in oral situations. The assumption at the basis of this investigation is that the exposure to and experience with this way of using the language in professional settings is likely to have influenced the way experts write in research-related and pedagogical contexts.
      Based on a comparison between a subcorpus of 40 research articles (RAs) written by English, American, and Australian authors and 40 RAs authored by experts working in Civil Law contexts – thus not affected (at least not so distinctively) by PLM ideology – this article seeks to establish the main differences in the two subcorpora especially at the interpersonal level of discourse and, more precisely, in the use of metadiscursive interactional strategies such as epistemic modality markers and personalization – both intended to facilitate interpretation by controlling assertiveness and lexicalizing the rhetorical figure of the author – and interactive metadiscourse markers like code glosses – which are meant to paraphrase or reformulate meaning to both simplify and bias the interpretive process.

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