Linguistic Universals in Legal Texts (English, French, and Russian)

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2019, Vol. 5. №3(19)

Linguistic Universals in Legal Texts (English, French, and Russian)

For citation: Zverev A. G. 2019. “Linguistic Universals in Legal Texts (English, French, and Russian)”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 5, no 3 (19), pp. 66-83. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2019-5-3-66-83

About the author:

Zverev Alexander G., Assistant, Department of English, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tyumen;


This article describes a study of legal texts (in English, French, and Russian) to confirm J. Greenberg’s linguistic universals № 11 and 14. The linguistic universal № 14 refers to the ordering of subject, object, and verb in a conditional clause. Anna Wierzbicka refers the predicate “if” (which forms the conditional) to the number of semantic primitives. The linguistic universal № 11 asserts in declarative sentences with nominal subject and object, the predominant dominant order has the subject followed by the object.
This study revises some of the most important provisions set forth by J. Greenberg for the languages with SVO word order. Some languages use relatively restrictive word order, often relying on the order of constituents to convey important grammatical information. Others — often those that convey grammatical information through inflection — allow more flexibility, which can be used to encode pragmatic information such as topicalisation or focus. It is hypothesized that, due to genre-stylistic and historical-cultural specificity, the texts of laws in French and English do not have a dominant word order. Texts of laws in Russian for the same reasons also do not have a dominant SVO word order.


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