Plain English in Legal Language: A Comparative Study of Two UK Acts of Parliament
Keywords:Legal English, Language for specific purposes, Language for legal purposes, Plain English Movement, UK Acts of Parliament
AbstractThe history of England has left its mark on legal English, a language for specific purposes well known for its complexity and conservatism throughout the world, thanks to the widespread reach of the British Empire. According to many scholars, today legal language is excessively entrenched in the past and has remained the same through years. As a consequence, criticism against traditional legal drafting started to arise in the second half of the 20th century introduced by the Plain English Movement, first in the UK and then, with more momentum, in the US. Its supporters fight for the simplification of the language used in legal documents and subsequently, all official documents and propose a series of writing techniques to achieve their purpose of making “legalese” more accessible to the lay public. The aim of this paper is to see whether the drafting of Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom (UK) has evolved towards a more modern style of writing leaving behind the conservatism that characterises legal language. In order to carry out the study, two Acts of Parliament of the UK on the same topic, but with a time span of 41 years of difference since their enactment, have been selected for comparison in order to see whether the principles upheld by the Plain English defenders have been applied in the most recent Act.
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