Illocutionary Acts of Chinese Legislative Language
Law relies on language and particularly it relies on the performative nature of language use. Legal effects and legal consequences are commonly obtained by merely uttering certain words. The study of English legal language has attracted considerable attention in the last 25 years, but the study of Chinese legal language has been very limited. This essay focuses on Chinese legal language and examines the statutory laws of China and Taiwan and for the first time documents and compares the pragmatic differences of the Chinese legal language used in these two Chinese speaking jurisdictions. This essay focuses on the pragmatic features of statutory laws in Chinese of China and Taiwan. It first reviews illocutionary forces of speech acts in legal English. It then describes legal performative modal verbs used in legal Chinese in ways equivalent to the English 'shall', 'may' and 'may not' or 'shall not' for the illocutionary forces of setting out obligations, permissions, and prohibitions. Examples from statutory laws in China and Taiwan are given and discussed. Lastly, implications are drawn from analysis with reference to speech act theory and language evolution. The study points to a universalism in the illocutionary functions of legal language and the tendency to use performatives in legal texts and to use fossilized words across different languages.
Journal of Pragmatics
Discourse and Pragmatics