On the Incoherence of Legal Language to the General Public

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I will suggest, in this article, a possible explanation of the fact that legal language appears incoherent to the general public. I will present one legal text (an indictment), explaining why it appears incoherent to legal laypersons. I will argue that the traits making this particular text appear incoherent are, first, that a specialized legal meaning is conveyed implicitly and, second, that there are no key-words that could direct laypersons to the knowledge making this meaning obvious to legalists. I will conclude that any legal text having these traits is likely to appear incoherent to the general public and suggest that the traits making my example appear incoherent might be rather common among the various texts of the various legal systems. On this suggestion there is no need to assume any causal relation between lawyers' social interests and the apparent incoherence of legal language as it entails that this incoherence is inevitable. (I will argue that it is a result of the facts that legal language is ordinary language used, in the ordinary way, in the special context of the legal discourse.)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-59
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Circumstantial evidence
  • Court interpretation
  • Key-word
  • Legal discourse
  • Logical form
  • Relevance theory
  • Semiotic group
  • Speaker's meaning

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Law


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