From Hard-Copy to Digital Law via “Illustrated Courtrooms”: Visualising the History of Legal English
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This essay addresses different patterns of the visualisation of the law. It examines how scholars attempt to depict, represent, and perform the law and its founding authority. It also focuses on the pragmatics of legal language: written and spoken standard legal English are pragmatically enriched within contexts where the law is interpreted, uttered, or performed. The linguistic notion of “context” discloses the interrelations between the agendas of law and power and reveals how the law conveys its content to the body politic as its ultimate addressee. It then proposes a renewed concept of legal linguistics. In order to determine the different ideologies underpinning the evolution of English legal language, as well as its prototypical forms of the visualisation of the law, three stages in the history of the English language will be examined: Late Middle English, Early Modern English, and Contemporary English. Each of these stages will be likened to the different parts of judicial proceedings. This will allow us to examine how English legal language has been used in a specific context, the trial, where the law is both uttered and performed.