In prehistoric Britain, traditional common law was discussed in the vernacular (see Celtic Law). Legal language and legal tradition changed with the waves of conquerors over the following centuries. Roman Britain (after the conquest of 43 AD) followed the Roman legal tradition and its legal language was Latin. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain around 410 and the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, the dominant tradition was rather Anglo-Saxon law, discussed in colloquial Germanic language (Old English) and written in Old English since about 600, beginning with Æthelberht`s law. After the Norman invasion of England in 1066, French Anglo-Norman became the official language of the court in England for almost 300 years until the Pleading in English Act of 1362 (and remained in low use for another 300 years), while medieval Latin was used for written documents for over 650 years. However, some English technical terms have been retained (see Anglo-Saxon Law: Language and Dialect for more details). As mentioned above, legal English is very different from standard English in many ways. The most important of these differences are as follows: 31Therefore, the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article (i.e. what makes the legal lexicon legal?) refers to legal use rather than the legal sense. Thus, assuming that legal language uses all means that contribute to expressing the communication needs of the law, the legal lexicon is a characteristic of legal language in its broader definition, insofar as it meets its communication requirements.
In this context, it would be interesting to determine to what extent the characteristics of the legal lexicon (borrowings from other languages and fields, source and recipient lexis, polysemy) are common to other technical languages in order to make a comparative analysis of the use of specialized lexicons. 17 Irrespective of whether loan words belong to the `source-oriented lexicon` or the `recipient-oriented lexicon`, their legal taste therefore depends entirely on the context. Looking at one of the examples above, none seem to be particularly “legal” outside of a legal context (“avoid”, “salute”, “grace”, “petty”, “prayer”, for example), except in two opposite cases: the first concerns lexemes that are also used in everyday English – in which case they may have been borrowed from general English from legal English – and therefore have a legal connotation regardless of the context. have. such as “evidence”14; Or, conversely, they are used exclusively in legal English (as is the case, for example, with “wrong”), which does not mean that they do not appear in general English dictionaries. For example, the term “tort” is defined as “an unlawful act other than a breach of contract for which relief may be obtained in the form of damages or injunctive relief” in the Merriam-Webster American dictionary and as “an act which harms someone and for which you may be held legally liable even if it is not a crime”15 in the MacMillan British Dictionary, Both dictionaries are dedicated to providing definitions in a common language. In the same way, these non-specialized dictionaries also have an entry for typical legal adverbs such as “inin”, “hereunder”, “heretofore” and others, most of which were copied into legal English during the 8th century. As adverbs, they have no legal meaning, but their almost exclusive use in legal or paralegal (mainly formal) contexts automatically gives them a legal connotation. 12 West [2005: 435-443] presents a multitude of such differences between American and British legal languages. Modern English vocabulary refers significantly to the Germanic, French and Latin languages, the latter most often via French. These vocabularies are preferably used in various registers, where words of French origin are more formal than those of Germanic origin and words of Latin origin are more formal than those of French origin.
Thus, the extensive use of French and Latin words in legal English leads to a relatively formal style. 16The “recipient-oriented lexicon” therefore usually creates false friends (i.e. Lexemes that have a similar morphology but have different meanings). The “beneficiary-based lexicon” can also be combined with foreign borrowing processes. For example, many lexemes derived from non-legal French have been assigned a legal meaning that is due to the original non-legal word and sometimes to the original meaning, while it differs from it (such as preuve/”obvious” and “preuve/preuve”, as well as délit and “délit”13). In other cases, the law has retained the original meaning(s) and added some specific legal meanings, as is the case with the verb “avoid” (from Old French esvuider to Latin viduare, i.e. “empty”), which has the same meaning as in general English (“evasion”, “esquive”), but can also mean “annul”, “invalidate” in contract law. The “recipient-oriented lexicon” thus indicates that semantic links to the language or domain of origin have been broken or are too loose to be identified with the original meaning(s). 24 As Bracton wrote in On the Laws and Customs of England (c. 1235), “Lose a syllab, lose the cause,” illustrating the importance of sticking to the wording of things in a precedent-based legal system: “[a] slight change of words meant that the action would fail (Beveridge [2002: 1], on the `prescribed form of documents`). 24 Two adjectives are the most frequently used in law, namely “reasonable” and “reasonable”. Each time they are used, detailed contextualization will be essential to determine their meaning, especially since their definitions are somewhat vague and vary depending on the context, as evidenced by the definition of “reasonable” in Black`s Law Dictionary [1998: 874]: “fair, reasonable, just, moderate, appropriate in the circumstances.” These two adjectives are often used in legal documents, particularly in contracts that have normative and therefore prescriptive value (“as appropriate”, “fair use”, “reasonable remedy”, “as appropriate”, “reasonable”, “reasonable notice”, “reasonable doubt”, “reasonable force”, “reasonable remuneration”, “due diligence”, etc.).