Analysing hedging in legal discourse using small-scale and large-scale corpora.

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Post-graduate law students are expected to handle a variety of legal and academic written genres. In these genres, meaning can be nuanced through a variety of means, including hedging. However, international law students often find decoding instances of hedging challenging, with interpretation of the writer’s true meaning suffering as a result. The aim of this paper is to compare hedging in two written legal genres which are frequently used by post-graduate law students to underpin their own academic essays: Law review articles and Supreme Court decisions. To that end, two analyses were undertaken. The first was qualitative in nature and involved the identification of hedges in a small corpus of just under 50,000 words based on introspection and intuition as per Salager-Meyer (2000). The second analysis served to verify conclusions drawn by using WordSmith Tools 6.0 (Scott 2013) and a much larger corpus of nearly eight million words. Correlation was found between the results of the two analyses, indicating that qualitative results could be extrapolated to larger samples to some degree.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Corpus Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • hedging
  • legal genres
  • Supreme Court
  • epistemic modality
  • law review
  • pragmatic competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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