An investigation of the lexico-grammatical profile of English legal- lay language


  • Lucia Busso


The article presents a study on the lexico-grammar of the genre of
English legal-lay language (Tiersma 1999), using the English subcorpus of the
CorIELLS corpus (Busso forthcoming). The study explores four grammatical
constructions (in Goldberg 2006’s Construction Grammar sense): nominalisations
heading prepositional phrase attachments, modal verb constructions, participial
reduced relative constructions, and passive constructions. Specifically, we use
collostructional analysis (Stefanowitsch 2013), followed by a vocabulary analysis
using English core vocabulary as a reference (Brezina and Gablasova 2015), and
a comparative frequency analysis with corpora of legal language and generaldomain
written prose. Results of this first part of the study foreground how legallay
language is quantitatively different from both neighbouring genres, suggesting
that it might be considered a “blended” genre. We further explore the data in terms
of accessibility for speakers, using readability metrics and a survey on English
participants. Both methods show that legal-lay language is at an intermediate
level of complexity between legal jargon and general-domain prose; however, we
further note that readability metrics generally underestimate speakers’ ability to
comprehend legal-lay language.




How to Cite

Busso, L. . (2022). An investigation of the lexico-grammatical profile of English legal- lay language. Language and Law / Linguagem E Direito, 9(1). Retrieved from