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The law, the musician, his band and their partnership agreement: comprehensibility, comprehension and compliance in a legal text

Cohen, Rachel 2009. The law, the musician, his band and their partnership agreement: comprehensibility, comprehension and compliance in a legal text. Entertainment and Sports Law Journal 6 (2)

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Abstract

The language of the law has long been considered problematic in terms of its ambiguous and archaic nature, and efforts have been made in recent decades to encourage the increased use of ‘plain’ words in the legal domain. Whilst existing research has explored many issues relating to the comprehensibility of legal texts, however, few of these studies have examined the legal documents used within the music industry from a micro-linguistic perspective. This article performs a detailed forensic linguistic analysis of the specimen Partnership Agreement provided by the UK Musicians Union. Selected sections of the Agreement are assessed in terms of their comprehensibility (the degree to which properties of the document are understandable), comprehension (to what extent the reader understands the text) and compliance (how readily the reader acts in accordance with the text’s instructions), and are subsequently re-drafted in ‘plainer’ language. The study finds that the processes of comprehensibility, comprehension and compliance are themselves highly complex and that the communication between legal and lay parties is typically hindered not only by the language of the law itself, but also by the conflicting ideological systems associated with each sphere. It is concluded that whilst the effectiveness of modern contractual documents is indeed likely to be improved through linguistic simplification, the well established conventions of our legal language remain resistant to radical change. Nevertheless, the suggestions raised here can be understood as a small but significant move towards effecting a gradual change in attitudes towards the language of the law in the 21st Century.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: Electronic law journals project
ISSN: 1748-944X
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:32
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/61651

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