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English is the predominant international language and it has a significant role in the development of the legal language. Legal English is the style of English used by lawyers and other legal professionals in the course of their work. Legal language contains a number of unusual features which are related to terminology, linguistic structure, punctuation etc.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF LEGAL LANGUAGE
The development of legal English is closely connected with the history of Great Britain. For several centuries English remained the spoken language of the majority of the population, while almost all writing was done in French or Latin.
During that period, legal English was influenced by Latin and French. Following the Norman invasion of England in 1066, Anglo Norman France became the official language of England. For the period of nearly 300 years, it was the language of legal proceedings. As a result many words used in modern legal English are derived from Anglo Norman, such words are property, chattel ,estate ,lease etc.
From 1066, Latin was the language of formal records and statutes. But it was not the language of legal pleading or debate. The Statute of Pleading, which was enacted in France in 1356, stated that all legal proceedings should be in English, but recorded in Latin.
The influence of Latin can be seen in the number of words and phrases such as Ad hoc, De facto, Bonafide etc. which remain in current use in writing. English was adopted for different kinds of legal documents at different times. Wills (वसीयत) began to be written in English in about 1400. Statutes were written in Latin until about 1300, in French until 1485, in English and French for a few years and in English alone from 1489.
According to, Proceedings in the Court of Justice Act, 1730. Latin was replaced by English. As a result new branches of law such as commercial law began to be developed entirely in English.
MEANING AND SCOPE OF LEGAL LANGUAGE
Legal language means the language which is being used by a person engaged in the legal profession. Law is a technical subject and it has its specific language and terminology (शब्दावली). The interpretation (व्याख्या) of law is carried out by means of a specific language called legal language.
The scope and extent of legal language is very much wide, because the legal language deals with the common man. There is a general conception (धारणा) regarding the legal language that a common man cannot understand the legal language as it is a technical subject. Only the legal experts are able to understand the technicality of legal language because they possess the skill to understand it.
Different types of people come within the ambit of the legal language. However, some of the people are compulsorily legal experts and some of the people are not compulsorily legal experts in the absence of knowledge of law.
In modern society there are two categories of people –
i) those who are affected by law and;
ii) those who deal with law (legal experts).
There are 5 dimensional communications in the field of law.
- The first dimension is the law makers, then the judges who implement it and legal advisers are the contributors in the communication of the provisions of the law.
- The second dimension is the interaction which takes place between the judges and the legal advisers. This can be formal or informal. In the courts exchange of views do occur between the judges and the advocates.
- The third dimension is informal advice or exchange of views between two or more advocates in their office or the exchange of views among the legal experts. This kind of communication is informal, however technical.
- The language of the fourth dimension is simple. This type of communication takes place between ordinary citizens and legal advisers.
- The last and fifth dimension of the communication exists upon ordinary citizens, which are expressed in contracts, wills and information.
CHARACTERISTICS OF LEGAL LANGUAGE
Legal language is sometimes difficult to understand because of the usage of a large number of difficult words and phrases. Legal Language employs a great deal of technical terminology which is unfamiliar to the layman and most of these terms are derived from French and Latin.
Thus, the main characteristics of legal Language are as follows :
- Sentences often have peculiar (unique) structures. The influence of French grammatical structures is a contributory reason for this factor.
- Punctuation is used sufficiently particularly in consequences and deeds. In modern legal drafting punctuation is used to clarify the meaning of the words.
- Foreign phrases are sometimes used instead of English phrases. such as Inter alia is used instead of among others.
- Older words like here of, thereof, whereof are used in legal English primarily to avoid repeating names or phrases. like the parties here too.
- Modifiers such as the same, the said, the aforementioned etc. are very frequently used as adjectives to determine the noun. For example – the said Mr. A.
- Legal English contains some words such as employer and employee, lesser and lessee in which the opposite nature of the relationship is indicated by the use of alternative endings, such as -er, -or, -ee.
PROBLEMS OF LEGAL LANGUAGE
There are many problems relating to the legal language, these are as follows:
- Problem due to Uncertainty and Doubt – There are a number of words which have uncertain meanings and thus problems arise. For example the word ‘right’ has been used for giving about half a dozen meanings and there is no more ambiguous word than ‘right’ in legal literature.
- Problem due to Incompleteness of the Human Language – Legal language is a part of the language which has been made by the human beings. Therefore incompleteness of the language affects its expressions and due to such incompleteness true interpretation could not be made.
- Problem due to change in the meaning of words from time to time – The meaning of many words gets changed as time passes, meaning of some words become narrow and meaning of some words get widened and also meaning of some words are modified. such as the word ‘asylum’ is used as a place for any kind of shelter but with the passage of time the word ‘asylum’ is used for a place where mentally sick people stay for treatment, however its old meaning has not disappeared.
- Problem Arising Due to Regional or Limited meaning of the words – Perhaps there is no word of such uncertain meaning having two or more definitions even though its meaning is ambiguous. The words appearing to be antonyms could not be defined correctly and perfectly. For example – ‘white’ and ‘black’, ‘night’ and ‘day’, ‘open’ and ‘close’, etc. Prima facie it appears that these words are complete mutually. For instance – a door may be either closed or opened or it may be ‘ajar’ (slightly opened).
- Problem Due to Humpty Dumpty use of words – Interpreters play humpty dumpty with the words. For example – In legal proceedings the word ‘action’ is not used in the sense in which ordinarily its meaning or understood. There are many such words which are used by the legal advisers with a totally different meaning from their ordinary meanings. such as Consideration, Satisfaction, Brief, Radio, Award, etc.
- Problem Due to Rhetoric Language – Art of expression or efficiency in speaking is considered to be synonymous with the legal language. The judgments of Courts are full of rhetoric. In fact among all specific languages the legal language contains a web of words or is jargon ridden.
- Problem Due to Verbosity – Sometimes, to express a view, two or more words are used differently. In several documents irritative words are unnecessarily used such as executor, heir, assigns and administrator. These words are still in use despite a change having been incorporated in law.
There are many examples of verbosity as the following:
Verbose Expression:- Exact Expression
- Give consideration to:- Consider
- Give goods to:- Delivery
- Problem Due to use of Legalistic Language – It has been seen that while drafting, mostly the legal language is used. Consequently, the legal language does not remain ordinary language for people and such mode of legal language is problematic indeed. therefore, These errors can be seen in the comparative illustrations as given below:
- Be unable to:- Cannot
- Adequate number of :- Enough
- Be empowered to:- May
- Per annum:- Per year