CHAPTER 1. REVIEW OF LITERATURE
1.1. CHARACTERISTICS OF LEGAL LANGUAGE
Statutes are generally promulgated by the state to govern people’s behaviors in all aspects of social life. They create, modify, or terminate the rights and obligations
of individuals and institutions. Once enacted, a legal document becomes authoritative and no law-maker will
be there to explain the wording and to guide the application of the rules in the law. Therefore, the rules set out in legal documents have to be clear, precise and
unambiguous, on the one hand, to avoid misinterpretations and misapplications of them, and inclusive, on the other, to cover all the possible cases that can emerge
within the governing scope of the law. To ensure these dual characteristics of legal rules, law-makers have to make full use of the written language, may it be English,
French, Vietnamese or any other one. Therefore, the language of this type of documents is highly specialized.
In this study, the term “legal texts” refers to any document within the field of law, and “legal documents” to statutes, documents issued by the law-making body of
the country. And “legal language” is restricted to the language of these legal documents.
1.1.1. An overview of legal traditions in the world
Before the serial collapse of some socialist countries in the world in the early 1990’s, there existed a strong belief among scholars in socialist countries that there
were only two traditions of law, i.e. the socialist and the capitalist ones, with the latter including Anglo-American as well as Continental Civil law systems. Western
scholars, on the contrary, distinguish between two main traditions, i.e. the Anglo- American and the Continental traditions, with socialist legal systems belonging to the
latter one Bogdan, 1994:63.
Today, it is commonly agreed that there are five groups of legal systems worldwide distributed as follow:
Global Distribution of Legal Systems
Of these five traditions, Civil Law and Common Law are predominant and will be discussed further in details.
Civil Law, also known as Continental Law or Roman Law, originated from Roman law, more specifically, from the sixth century “Corpus Juris Civilis”, a code
consolidating all of the laws in continental Europe during the reign of Roman emperor Justinian. In countries that follow the civil law tradition, statutes are the
basis of the legal system. Solutions for each individual case are prescribed in the provisions of the legal codes, on which sentences have to be based. National legal
systems developed through the process of codification. Common Law shares roots in Roman law with Civil Law but has a much
different evolution from that of Civil Law. The general principles of Common Law grow out of the judicial decisions in court cases by individual judges over a long
period of time. The main source of law and the basis for rules of conduct are past cases, not codes or legislation. The common law systems include all present and
former members of the British Empire, as well as the United States of America. But it should be noted that the present common law of the U.S. differs to a great extent from
the common law of Britain, despite the two countries being significant representatives of Common Law. Therefore, the language of these two systems poses considerable
differences in terms of technical terminologies.
1.1.2. Vietnamese legal system