The Complex Sentence In Legal English: A Study of Law Reports

  • John Franklin Wiredu Department of English; University of Ghana, Legan
Keywords: complex


Using Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar as its theoretical framework, this study
analyses case reports of Ghana's Supreme Court decisions which were published in the
Daily Graphic of 20 II and 2012. There were 87 such cases reported in the newspaper in
that period The study is based on the assumption that legal English is a recognised
pecialised form of language use and that the language is specific to the special
equirements of the law. Earlier studies have noted that the pursuit of precision, clarity and
l-inclusiveness is an important goal of legal language. Accordingly, in this work, we have
established that these goals of precision, clarity and all-inclusiveness are achieved through

. the use of detailed information to avoid confusion.and ambiguity in the interpretation of the
law. if legal language is perceived as complex and incomprehensible, it is because there
are specific linguistic steps taken to ensure that the language is precise, clear and
unambiguous. One such measure is the use ofgrammatical structures. For instance, in
order to accommodate the high volume of information within a sentence, different
structural types of clauses are used in law texts. The main question we answer in this work
s: what are the linguistic structures we find at the unit of sentence in law reports?

From the analysis, the following results have emerged The declarative is the only sentence
ype used in the reports which we analysed In addition, it is noticed that hypotaxis is the
eferred clausal relationship in this variety. As a result, the picture that emerges in this
nalysis is that there is the overwhelming dominance of the dependent clause type.

This is an indication that:

  • there are links between ideas in the sentence;
  • . that there is the process of information integration in the legal texts; and
  • thai there is information ranking in the texts.

All these indicators are realised through rankshifting, a grammatical process which has
cilitated the packaging ahd the ranking of the ideas in a single sentence.

How to Cite
Wiredu, J. F. (2019). The Complex Sentence In Legal English: A Study of Law Reports. Unilag Journal of Humanities, 2(1), 1-22. Retrieved from