Through many decades criticism has been leveled against the problems of understandability a complex legal language usage can cause laymen both in Denmark and in England. The language reform, which was introduced in the Danish courts in 2003, and part of the Woolf reform of the English civil procedure system, aim at making legal language easier to understand for laymen by simplifying complex language usage in communication between the courts and the citizens. In connection with the two above mentioned reforms, it is relevant to investigate whether or not the reforms have had an actual effect on the language usage in the courts. I have therefore phrased the following thesis statement: Has focus on language policy in communication between the courts and the citizens cf. the Danish Court Administration´s language policy of 2003 and the English Woolf reform of 1999 caused changes in the language usage in criminal cases and has the language thereby become easier for laymen to understand? Is the level of difficulty of the language different in Danish and English judgments respectively and if so, what are the differences? The core of this thesis is a corpus based analysis of a limited amount of Danish and English judgments from before and after the reforms in 1999 and 2003. In my analyses I have chosen to focus on lexical and syntactic elements that frequently occur in legal language. My focus is passive constructions, initial and medial adverbials, compound prepositions, complex noun phrases, technical terms, legal collocations, and nominal constructions. I have supplemented the analyses of lexical and syntactic elements with a readability index analysis, called lix, that indicates the level of difficulty of a text. The analyses however, must be regarded with some reservations due to certain factors of uncertainty about the analysis methods. The results of a qualitative corpus analysis make it difficult to generalise about legal language. A generalising conclusion would demand an analysis of a quantitative corpus which has not been possible in my case. It should also be mentioned that the personal style of writing of the judges that have formulated the judgments may affect the level of difficulty and thereby the analysis results. Finally it has to be taken into account that the readability index may be imprecise when used on texts that are shorter than 200 sentences and 2000 words. In spite of these factors of uncertainty, I have been able to conclude on the tendencies within legal language in Danish and English criminal cases and whether or not the language has become easier to understand after the introduction of the language reforms in the two countries respectively. The analyses of the Danish judgments indicate that the language has become easier to understand since the introduction of the language reform in the Danish courts. However, the Woolf reform does not seem to have had the same effect as the Danish reform. When comparing the English legal language before and after Woolf, it appears that the English judgments have become more difficult for laymen to understand since the reform was introduced in 2003, which is much against the expectations of an easier understandable language usage in the courts. When comparing the Danish and English legal language before the two language reforms, it seems that the English judgments are less complex than the Danish ones. However, after the introduction of the two reforms in the Danish and English courts, the level of difficulty in the two languages respectively has become more similar than it was before the reforms. This is due to the Danish legal language becoming easier with the Danish reform and the English language becoming more complicated with the Woolf reform. When comparing the Danish and English legal language before the two language reforms in 1999 and 2003, it seems that passive constructions, initial and medial adverbials, compound prepositions, complex noun phrases, technical terms, and nominal constructions occur more frequently in the Danish judgments than in the English ones. The only element that occurs on an equal basis, in the Danish and English judgments, is legal collocations. The occurrences of the analysed lexical and syntactic elements are very different after the reforms. The analyses indicate that passive constructions, long initial and medial adverbials, and compound prepositions occur more frequently in the Danish than in the English judgments. The opposite is the case with the technical terms and legal collocations which seem to occur more frequently in the English judgments than in the Danish judgments. And finally the complex noun phrases and nominal constructions seem to occur equally as much in the Danish and in the English judgments after the language reforms.
|Uddannelser||Cand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Interkulturel Marketing), (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling|