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Socio-cognitive aspects of hedging in two legal discourse genres

Author(s): Holly Vass

Journal: Ibérica
ISSN 1139-7241

Volume: 7;
Start page: 125;
Date: 2004;
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Keywords: hedging | genre analysis | legal discourse | cognitive approach | English for Academic Legal Purposes (EALP)

While there are many studies on hedging in a wide variety of disciplinary discourses, the field of Law, to date, has been largely overlooked. Moreover, most research on hedging approaches the phenomenon from either a textual or pragmatic perspective, and tends to compare the same genre across disciplines. By contrast, the objective of this study was to analyse hedging in two legal written discourse genres, namely U.S. Supreme Court opinions and American law review articles, from a comprehensive, socio-cognitive, intra-disciplinary perspective. Due to the essential roles of intuition and hedging competence in the identification of hedges, qualitative data gathering and interpretation techniques were used. Results indicate that differences between the two genres can be linked to certain prototypical features of the genres themselves, particularly context and communicative purposes. Therefore, it is possible to postulate that hedging is in fact genre-specific, at least insofar as legal genres are concerned. Further comparative research must be done to determine if the same is true in other fields as well.
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