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Academic Paper

Title: Christopher Williams, Tradition and change in legal English: Verbal constructions in prescriptive texts
Author: Ann Sinsheimer
Institution: University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Christopher Williams, Tradition and change in legal English: Verbal constructions in prescriptive texts. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005. pp. 216.

Christopher Williams analyzes the use of constructions such as modals and semi-modals such as shall and may and the use of the present simple as these constructions appear in English prescriptive legal texts. Using a large corpus of texts from a variety of English-speaking countries and international organizations, Williams focuses primarily on
legislative texts, which are often characterized as including archaic or rarely used words and foreign words, the repetition of particular words and phrases, the use of long, complex sentences, and the passive voice (p. 31). Williams's analysis, thoughtfully designed and carried out, is an informative examination of how and why legal language has resisted
change. The book also provides an engaging look at the Plain Language Movement and the impact this movement has had on legal texts.


This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 36, Issue 3.

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