Intersections between Law and Language: Disciplinary Concepts in Second Language Legal Literacy

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Abstract

International mobility among graduate students of law presents unique challenges for the teaching and learning of Legal English. Master of Laws (LL.M.) students, for example, often bring both prior legal training and professional experience from their home jurisdiction to their graduate studies abroad. Taking a closer look at the experience of these students as they engage with genres associated with another legal system provides insight into broader issues of intersections between language and content in English for Legal Purposes. This article draws on case studies of four LL.M students from China and Saudi Arabia, a civil law jurisdiction and an Islamic law jurisdiction, respectively, as they learn to read and write common law genres in the United States. Considering students’ experiences with these texts, the article outlines a potential framework for understanding the role of disciplinary concepts in second language legal literacy development. Specifically, the article elaborates a tentative taxonomy for disciplinary concepts that distinguishes between discourse-relevant concepts and discourse-structuring concepts in considering the interaction between language and content in ESP and CLIL for law.

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