Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Opacity in International Legal Texts: Generic Trait or Symbol of Power?

María Ángeles Orts

Abstract

Due to this international character of English, texts in this language –as proffered by several major institutions in the area of public and private law− are deployed as necessary tools of communication in the course of the establishment of transnational commercial and juridical relationships. However, English as the language of the law has been branded as a complex, opaque, kind of discourse. The aim of the present paper is to address the question of the undeniable complexity of legal texts in English as instruments to wield power, their unveiled communicative aim being to separate the ruler from the citizen and the legal message from its user. To demonstrate the validity of such thesis, genre analysis has been applied to three paradigmatic texts, consequential to develop international deals in the transnational contexts: the insurance policies of the London Institute of Underwriters at Lloyd’s, the Rules issued by the London Court of international Arbitration and the Geneva Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR). The goal of our study will be carried out through different levels to discern whether there exists any possible equation between power and textual complexity: the formal and discursive level, which will scrutinize lexicon, syntax and textual elements (macrostructure of texts and metadiscourse markers) and the pragmatic level, which will study the texts as peculiar generic types of legal agreements where power and commitment between the parties as a set of directives, i.e. obligations exerted by a powerful party over another, the recipient of the text.

Keywords

Legal language; Power; CMR; Institute Cargo Clauses; LCIA

References

Alcaraz, Enrique and Brian Hughes (2002): Legal Translation Explained. New York: Routledge.

Barnet, Michael and Raymond Duvall (2004): Power in Global Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Breeze, Ruth (2013): Corporate Discourse. London: Bloomsbury.

Breeze, Ruth, Maurizio Gotti and Carmen Sancho-Guinda (eds) (2014): Interpersonality in Legal Genres. Bern: Peter Lang.

Bhatia, Vijay K. (2004): Worlds of Written Discourse. London: Continuum.

Born, Gary (2001): International Commercial Arbitration: International and USA Commentary and Materials. New York: Kluwer Law International.

Bourdieu, Pierre (1991): “On Symbolic Power”. In John B. Thompson, ed., Language and Symbolic Power. Pierre Bourdieu. Cambridge: Polity Press, 163-170.

Butt, Peter (2002): “The Assumptions behind Plain Legal Language. At the Heart of Communication”. 4th Biennial conference, Toronto, Canada: Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN).

Cao, Deborah (2007): Translating Law. Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

Crystal, David (1997): English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, David and Derek Davy (1969): Investigating English Style. London: Longman.

Cutler, Claire (2003): Private Power and Global Authority: Transnational Merchant Law in the Global Political Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dafouz, Emma (2008): “The pragmatic role of textual and interpersonal metadiscourse markers in the construction and attainment of persuasion: A cross-linguistic study of newspaper discourse”. Journal of Pragmatics 40: 95-113.

Doyle, Mike (2003): “Discourses of employability and empowerment: Foundation Degrees and ‘Third Way’ discursive repertoires” [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00002421.htm

Evangelisti Allori, Paola (2008): “The Linguistic Formulation of Power: Modality and Power relations in Two Sets of Sports-related Arbitration Rules”. In V.K. Bhatia, C. Candlin and P. Evangelisti Allori, eds., Language, Culture and the Law. The Formulation of Legal Concepts Across Languages and Cultures. Linguistic Insights Series, 64. Bern: Peter Lang, 75-97.

Fairclough, Norman (2014): Language and Power (3rd edition). London: Longman.

Focarelli, Carlo (2012): International Law as Social Construct: The Struggle for Global Justice. Oxford: OUP.

Fowler, Robert, Bob Hodge, Gunther Kress and Tony Trew (1979): Language and Control. London: Routledge.

Fuertes-Olivera, Pedro-A., Marisol Velasco-Sacristán, Ascensión Arribas-Baño, Eva Samaniego-Fernández (2001): “Persuasion and advertising English: metadiscourse in slogans and headlines”. Journal of Pragmatics 33: 1291–1307.

Garner, Bryan A. (2001): Legal Writing in Plain English. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Gibbons, John (2004): “Taking legal language seriously”. In Gibbons, John, V. Prakasam, K. V. Tirumalesh and Hemalatha Nagarajan, eds., Language in the Law. New Dehli: Orient Longman, 1-16.

Goodrich, Peter (1987): Legal Discourse: Studies in Linguistics, Rhetoric, and Legal Analysis. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Gotti, Maurizio (2008): “The Formulation of Legal Concepts in Arbitration. Normative Texts in a Multilingual, Multicultural Context”. In V.K. Bhatia, C. Candlin and P. Evangelisti Allori, eds., Language, Culture and the Law. The Formulation of Legal Concepts Across Languages and Cultures. Linguistic Insights Series, 64. Bern: Peter Lang, 23-45.

Hammell, Andrew A. (2008): “Legal Translation, the Plain Language Movement, and English as a Lingua Franca”, in F. Olsen, A. Lorz and D. Stein eds., Language and Law: Theory and Society, 275-291. Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf University Press. Retrieved from: http://works.bepress.com/andrew_hammel/9

Hermans, Theo (1996): “Norms and the Determination of Translation: A Theoretical Framework”. In R. Álvarez and M.-C. Vidal, eds., Translation, Subversion and Power. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 25-51.

Hillier, Tim (1998): Sourcebook on Public International Law. London: Routledge.

Hyland, Kenneth (2005): Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing. London: Continuum.

Hyland, Kenneth and Polly Tse (2004): “Metadiscourse in academic writing: A reappraisal”. Applied Linguistics, 25(2): 156-177.

Kairys, David (ed.) (1990): Introduction to the politics of law: a progressive critique. New York: Basic Books.

Klabbers, Jan and Mortimer Sellers (2008): The internationalization of law and legal education. Dordrecht: Springer Science & Business Media.

Kress, Gunther and Robert Hodge (1979): Language as Ideology. London: Routledge.

McDowell, Gary (2010): The Language of Law and the Foundations of American Constitutionalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lukács, Georg (1971): History and Class Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mirzaee, Sepideh and Hadi Hamidi (2012): “Critical Discourse Analysis and Fairclough’s Model”. ELT Voices, 2 (5).

Orts Llopis, María Ángeles (2015) “Legal English and Legal Spanish: The Role of Culture and Knowledge in the Creation and Interpretation of Legal Texts”. ESP Today 3(1): 1-134.

Palmirani, Monica, Ugo Pagallo, Pompeu Casanovas and Giovanni Sartor (2011): “Approaches to the Complexity of Legal Systems - Models and Ethical Challenges for Legal Systems, Legal Language and Legal Ontologies, Argumentation and Software Agents”. International Workshop AICOL-III, Held as Part of the 25th IVR Congress, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Revised Selected Papers.

Salmi-Tolonen, Tarja (2011): “Proactive Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms”. In Sorsa, Kaisa, ed., Proactive Management and Proactive Business Law: A Handbook. Course material from Turku University of Applied Sciences 6, Turku.

Salmi-Tolonen, Tarja (2014): “Interpersonality and Fundamental Rights”. In R. Breeze, M. Gotti and C. Sancho Guinda, Interpersonality in Legal Genres. Linguistic Insights series, 191. Bern: Peter Lang, 303-328.

Sarangi, Srikant and Stefan Slembrouck (2014): Language, Bureaucracy and Social Control. London: Routledge.

Siegel, Alan and Irene Etzkorn (2013): Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. London: Hachette UK.

Tiersma, Peter M. (1999): Legal Language. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Trosborg, Anna (1995): “Statutes and Contracts: An Analysis of Legal Speech Acts in the English Language of the Law”. Journal of Pragmatics 23: 31-53.

Trosborg, Anna (1997): “Translating Hybrid Political texts”. In Trosborg, Anna ed., Text Typology and Translation, 6, 145-345.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2015.28.07

Copyright (c) 2015 María Ángeles Orts

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.