An investigation into formal and functional characteristics of qualifications in legislative writing and its application to English for academic legal purposes.

  • Vijay K. Bhatia

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The present investigation is based on a linguistic analysis of the 'Housing Act 1980' and attempts to examine the role of qualifications in the structuring of the legislative statement. The introductory chapter isolates legislative writing as a "sub-variety “of legal language and provides an overview of the controversies surrounding the way it is written and the problems it poses to its readers. Chapter two emphasizes the limitations of the available work on the description of language-varieties for the analysis of legislative writing and outlines the approach adopted for the present analysis. This chapter also gives some idea of the information-structuring of legislative provisions and establishes qualification as a key element in their textualisation. The next three chapters offer a detailed account of the ten major qualification-types identified in the corpus, concentrating on the surface form they take, the features of legislative statements they textualize and the syntactic positions to which they are generally assigned in the statement of legislative provisions. The emerging hypotheses in these chapters have often been verified through a specialist reaction from a Parliamentary Counsel, largely responsible for the writing of the ‘Housing Act 1980’• The findings suggest useful correlations between a number of qualificational initiators and the various aspects of the legislative statement. They also reveal that many of these qualifications typically occur in those clause-medial syntactic positions which are sparingly used in other specialist discourse, thus creating syntactic discontinuity in the legislative sentence. Such syntactic discontinuities, on the evidence from psycholinguistic experiments reported in chapter six, create special problems in the processing and comprehension of legislative statements. The final chapter converts the main linguistic findings into a series of pedagogical generalizations, offers indications of how this may be applied in EALP situations and concludes with other considerations of possible applications.
Date of Award1982
Original languageEnglish


  • formal
  • functional
  • qualifications
  • legislative
  • English for academic legal purposes

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