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1Takasaki City University of Economics, Japan; 2Attorney, Former Judge, Japan; 3Attorney, Numata Municipal Office
Perhaps more than most professions, law depends on a corpus of specialised terms of art that are familiar to the practitioners using them regularly in legal contexts but less familiar, and often confusing, to lay people. An initial step to making legalese more understandable to non-lawyers is to evaluate what lay people actually understand by the terms they come across, and so this study compared the responses of lay participants when asked about key terms from the Japanese Civil Code with the definitions and explanations given by a legal expert. The approach in this paper combines quantitative content analysis of closed questions given to lay participants with quantitative analysis of responses solicited through recorded interviews. Data was collected from interviews with 43 lay subjects about their knowledge of 16 basic civil law terms extracted from the Japanese Civil Code. The language used by interview informants was subjected to cluster analysis, co-occurrence network and correspondence analysis. The key aims were to explore what terms lay people believe they know, what they understand by these legal terms, how they express their understanding, and the extent to which their basic understanding of legal theory may differ from the understanding of lawyers.
Justice Must Be Seen to Be Done: An SFL Approach to Discourse Analysis of News Reports on Innocence Cases
Jingsi Guo, Chuanyou Yuan
Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China, People's Republic of
Abstract: Recent years have witnessed several wrongly convicted innocence cases being retried and innocent people being exonerated in the background of legal reforms in China. The reporting of these cases gave rise to massive impacts on society and drew continuous attention from the public. This paper analyzes English news reporting on innocence cases in China, from the perspectives of instantiation and individuation in Systemic Functional Linguistics. With the methodology of qualitative study and the assistance of corpus tool, the analyses reveal the coupling model of the reporting in instantiation and the process of constructing shared identities, attitudes and values in individuation to affiliate with readers. This paper discusses the interaction between mass media and justice through the linguistic features, and how local media introduce Chinese legal ideologies and progress to readers around the world through language.
Investigating the Comprehensibility and Readability of Malaysian Construction Contracts
Rachelle Ballesteros Lintao
University of Santo Tomas, Philippines
Facilitated by globalisation, the construction industry’s expansion is projected to reach US $ 10.5 trillion by 2023 and estimated to grow 4.2 % compound annual growth rate from 2018 to 2023 (Research and Markets, 2018). Malaysia is forecasted to have US $ 22 billion of new and construction contracts awarded between 2017 and 2018 alone. Such rise in spending on the construction works in Malaysia is marred by the increasing number of disputes. Meanwhile, the rise of the plain language movement internationally and its success in a number of other industries affirm the need for this qualitative and quantitative study for the construction industry. This paper seeks to determine the readability and comprehensibility of Malaysian construction contracts by their primary users. Four existing and one plain-language version of the construction contracts as used in major jurisdictions in Malaysian construction projects will undergo text-based testing using a cognitively-inspired readability and complexity tool. Next, a total of 30 primary users of the documents will determine the comprehensibility of these contracts through cloze testing. The results are expected to present how the main users’ own evaluation of the materials compare with the measured complexity of the traditional and plain versions of the construction contracts. The combined testing approaches will also help establish the potential benefits of adopting plain language to improve readability and comprehensibility of construction contracts.
Legal Reasoning: Periodicity of Common Law Judicial Opinions and Chinese Judgments from Martinian Genre Perspective
Nan Lu, Chuanyou Yuan
Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, People's Republic of China
China is deepening its judicial reform, in which strengthening the legal reasoning of judgments is high on the agenda. The issue has been much trodden in legal academia and practice, but rarely touched by linguists. This paper, employing Martin’s discourse semantics and genre theory as its theoretical framework, attempts to reveal the periodicity and generic structure of Common Law judicial opinions and Chinese judgments. It argues that the Chinese judgments as a legal genre, compared with its counterpart—the Common Law judicial opinions, do not unfold in waves on the ground that one cannot identify multilayered Theme-and-New structure or layers of prediction in its development, and that this mode of text unfolding in waves is vitally important for the reader to follow the judge’s reasoning and construct a sense of fairness and justice. It suggests that the periodicity and the generic structure of the Common Law judicial opinions would be a valuable reference for the Chinese judicial reform on judgments in terms of improving its legal reasoning function.