84914 - Legal English (B2)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Knowledge of English Legal Language

Course contents

The course is divided into two modules.

In general, the course aims at refining the receptive skills of students, with a particular emphasis on the written text.

The grammar part of the course will focus in particular on the register and vocabulary, not necessary legal, but which is nevertheless used in documents relating to legal matters, professional communications, aiming at raising the level of self reflection on the language and formal communications in it.

The English legal language, main object of the didactic path of the legal module, is used, in the second part of the course, as a tool to study the common law legal system, still in the optics of legal language.

The texts chosen will range from the purely theoretical / academic sphere, to concrete examples of language use in transactions and dissertations.

The objectives of the course are the following: a better understanding of communication strategies, an improvement of the ability to self-learn language and reflection on the underlying structures.

The program is organized as follows:

Grammar (Module 2)

The topics covered include the analysis of texts of the legal system of the Anglo-Saxon countries in general, a study of the communicative strategies of written and formal language, as well as a review of the cultural and historical traditions that are to be mirrored by the English legal language.

  1. Difference between Italian and English sentence structure - grammatical definitions and misunderstandings

2. Translating and / or paraphrasing - structural casts

3. Read to understand the general meaning - summarize and infer

4. Read to identify specific information - scan a text, keywords

5. Collocations and idioms - 'I know my chickens'

6. Formal and informal communication - Register / gender

7. Structure of the text - cohesion and coherence

Law (Module 1)

1. The legal lexicon

1.1 Languages and languages of law; 1.2 Legal translation between risks and opportunities; 1.3 multilingualism in Europe; 1.4 English as a lingua franca; 1.5 The Plain English Movement.

2. The English legal language

2.1 The British common law system and its historical evolution; 2.2 Stare decisis; 2.3 The language of case law; 2.4 the language of the legislator; 2.5 The Scottish experience; 2.6 The circulation of the model: the United States of America; 2.7 The American legal language; 2.8 False friends.

3. The European dimension

3.1 English in supranational contexts; 3.2 The language of the European institutions; 3.3 The principle of multilingualism; 3.4 The Court of Justice; 3.5 The linguistic services of the European Union.

4. The language of civil law

4.1 The torts system; 4.2 The law of contract; 4.3 The law of property; 4.4 Case study on leading


Module 1 (prof. Alessandro Russo)

ALISON RILEY (a cura di), Legal English and the Common Law, Wolters kluwer, 2015, pp. 49-154;196-350.

BARBARA POZZO-MARINA TIMOTEO (a cura di), Europa e linguaggi giuridici, Giuffrè, Milano, 2008, pp. XIII-XXX; 259-300; 303-432.

Module 2 (prof. Gabriella Catalini)

Maria Gigliola Di Renzo Villata (a cura di), Legal English - 3. ed. rivista e ampliata, Wolters Kluwer ; [Padova : CEDAM], 2017.

Suggested reading for the language part - general text comprehension:

Diane Engelhardt, Intermediate English Reading and Comprehension, Editore: McGraw-Hill Education – Europe, Collana: Practice Makes Perfect Series, p. 224, EAN: 9780071798846

Suggested reading for the legal part:

F. De Franchis, Dizionario Giuridico. 2 volumes: English-Italian; Italian-English, Giuffré editore

Teaching methods

The course follows an interdisciplinary approach, aimed at direct student involvement. Lectures are flanked by classroom exercises to enhance self-learning (Module 2), the analysis of some case law that have marked the history of the system, the reading and commentary of some central morphemes of the common law system, the vision of some films showing the system in action.

The course is taught by Prof. Alessandro Russo (module 1 - law) and by Prof. Gabriella Catalini (Module 2 - grammar).

The intensity and continuity of participation in the course will be assessed by self-certification.

Assessment methods

The evaluation takes place only through the final exam, which ensures the acquisition of the required knowledge by conducting a written test, for the grammar part, and by an oral examination, for the law part. The final grade will be the average of the two parts of the exam.

The written test consists on 30 questions with multiple choice answer, of which about 15 will be texts with expressions or words to be inserted while 15 will consist in the comprehension of a text. Each question allows the student to get 1 point. A minimum score of 18 points is required to pass the test successfully.

The oral exam consists of an interview with the teacher and the assistants of the teacher, on the program of module 1 (legal part). The oral interview, which focuses on issues related to those indicated in the “Program and contents” section, aims at assessing the level of understanding and mastery of the comparartistic perspective in the study of the English legal system. The achievement by the student of an organic vision of the topics addressed and the exposure of the same with mastery of language, will be evaluated with marks of excellence. The predominantly mnemonic and notional knowledge of the topics dealt with, which results in an exhibition not supported by a capacity for synthesis and analysis of the themes dealt with in an organic perspective and a correct but not always appropriate language, will lead to an average pass outcome; training gaps and / or inappropriate language, albeit if in a context of minimum knowledge of the examination material, will lead to a barely sufficient mark; training gaps, inappropriate language, lack of orientation within the texts, will be evaluated negatively.

In order to sit for the exam, registration through the electronic platform "Almaesami" is required, in compliance with mandatory deadlines (usually 7 days before the date set for the examination). Those who do not succeed with the enrolling by the due date, are required to report promptly (and in any event before the official closing of the registration lists) the problem to the school's secretary office. The professor, evaluated the problem, will decide about the admission to Registration via email messages and out of the terms, will not be accepted.

The course will be held in the first semester and therefore students who have chosen the course in the year of enrolment will be able to sit for the exam starting from the month of January.

Only students that are regularly enrolled and that paid all the due university taxes, will be able to sit for the examinations. Under no circumstances it will be possible to sit for the examination and proceed with the registration not simultaneously.

Office hours

See the website of Alessandro Russo

See the website of Gabriella Fennella Catalini