Discourse Markers Sentence Openers in Legal English

AuthorOnorina Botezat
PositionSpiru Haret University
European Integration - Realities and Perspectives
Interdisciplinary Dimensions of Communication Science
Discourse Markers s Sentence Openers in Legal English
Onorina Botezat
Spiru Haret University, Constanța, yvycar@yahoo.com
Abstract: Discourse markers ca n be defined as linguistic expressions of different length whic h carry
pragmatic and prop ositional meaning, they are used to combine clauses or to connect sentence ele ments and
they appear in b oth speech and writing, and facilitate the discourse. Each discourse marker indicates a
particular meaning relationship between two or more clauses. English is predominantly the language of
international legal practic e and its importance to lawyers cannot be over-emphasized. The way in which one
uses legal English can therefore be crucial to pr ofessional success. This paper stresses the importance of good
usage of discourse markers in legal English.
Key words: legal language; discourse markers; international legal practice
1. Legal Discourse
The term “legal” refers to any item of written or oral communication related to law, justice actors, or
court activity. Law has two primary functions. It orders human relations and rule as social order.
The legal register is characterized by technical terms or “terms of art” as warranty deed, criminal
proceedings, Procurator Fiscal, grantee, devisee, common terms with uncommon meanings, as the
term assignment – it does not mean a “task or duty”, or “something assigned”, but it means the
“transference of a right, interest or title”, archaic expressions such as hereinafter, hereto, hereby,
hereof, aforesaid, whosoever, thereof, therein, doublets as last will and testament, give and bequest,
will and bequest, aid and abet, cease and desist, rules and regulations, frequent use of prepositional
phrases as according to, as to, in the event of,
As Danet (1985:281) claims, “syntactic features are probably more distinctive of legal English than
are lexical ones, and certainly account for more of the difficulties of lay persons in comprehending it”.
She identifies eleven of such features. Among others we mention nominalization: make such provision
for the payment of instead of provide for the payment, or give time for the payment of any debts
instead of give time for persons owing debts to pay, use of passives and conditionals, sentence length
and complexity, negatives: not, never, unless, except or by prefixes un-, in-, binomial expressions:
goods and materials, liable and responsible, engage or participate, generally and specifically, control,
direct or supervise; employee, partner, agent, or principal; files, records, documents, drawings,
specifications, equipment, and similar items.

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