The Speech Acts in English Legal Texts

Topics: Speech act, Illocutionary act, Pragmatics Pages: 53 (18455 words) Published: May 4, 2013
The Speech Acts in English Legal Texts

A Master Thesis Submitted to Graduate School, Southwest University of Political Science and Law

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Master Degree of Forensic Linguistics in Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics

April, 2008


I would like to extend my gratitude to the following people, without whose support and encouragement, I could not complete the thesis. My deepest appreciation first goes to my thesis instructor, professor Xiao Yunshu, from whom, I have gained the most precious treasure, i.e., the independent thinking ability, the problem-solving ability and the inspiration for my thesis. I have benefited not only from his teaching and expert guidance, but also from his thinking methods. And what’s more? His great patience and encouragement has given me so much confidence for completing the thesis. I should say thanks to Professor Zhao Liang, professor Song Lei, Professor Xiong Demi, Professor Zheng Daxuan and Professor Cheng Rukang, who used to teach me major courses from which I learned a lot of things, which are quite helpful for my thesis writing. Thanks should also go to my friends in Sichuan International Studies University, who provided me with a lot of significant materials. And last but not least, I should say thanks to my parents and my boy friend who have given me the strongest support during the several months of my painstaking thesis composition.



The research on legal language has been very popular in recent years, which mainly focuses on lexicology, syntax, translation of legal language, i.e., but rarely on the speech acts in English legal texts. Therefore, based on the speech act theory, the thesis intends to study the speech acts in English legal texts, including legislative texts, judicial texts and other legal texts, which are called legal speech acts, since they are of legal effects. Generally, the speech acts in legal texts, performs the functions of normalizing and regulating people’s behavior, which are usually reflected by the combination of such modal verbs as “shall”, “may”, “can”, “should”, “ought to”, etc. and such performative verbs as “enact”, “command”, “repeal”, “entitle”, “amend”, “agree”, “award”, “certify”, “swear”, “affirm” and so on. In many cases, a legal speech act verb is enough to demonstrate a legal speech act. Based upon the previous studies on speech acts by Austin (1962), Searle (1975), and Trosborg (1995), the thesis classifies the English legal speech acts into regulatives, declarations, behabitives, verdictives, directives and requestives. Almost every research on a specific language phenomenon has its own purposes, which can be generalized as follows: (1) to illustrate an abstract language system or to verify a linguistic theory based on the whole language; (2) to solve the problems of language life. Therefore, the overall aims of the thesis are to analyze the manifestation of English legal speech acts, to exam or certify the speech act theory in legal register and to reveal the principles, the functions and the characteristics of legal speech acts. To achieve those objectives, the thesis first gives a brief introduction to the speech act theory, the present research states both at home and abroad and the significance of the study. Then an overview on English legal texts is made to lay a foundation for the analysis of English legal speech acts. Finally, a full discussion on the classification, the functions and the characteristics of English legal speech acts is presented. Key words: legal speech acts; legal texts; requestives; conferring rights; imposing obligations


当前,国内的法律语言研究十分盛行,主要集中在对法律语言的词汇、句 法、及其翻译等方面的探讨,然而却很少涉猎英语法律语篇中的言语行为。基于 此种现象,本文借助语用学中的言语行为理论,以英语立法语篇、司法语篇及其 他法律语篇为素材,探讨英语法律语篇中的言语行为,即英语法律言语行为。法 律言语行为通常是指具有法律效力的言语行为, 其主要功能是调节和规范人们的 行为,具体表现为赋予权利、规定义务和调节行为。英语法律语篇中常常以 “shall”, “may”, “can”, “should”, “ought to”,等情态动词作为辅助手段来表示法律...

Bibliography: Searle, John R. Indirect speech acts. In Cole and Morgan (eds.), reprinted in Searle 1979, 1975.
蔡 平. “翻译方法应以归化为主”[J].中国翻译, 2002,(23):5.
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