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An Example of Modern Legal English

Some impression of the extent to which the French element has permeated the language of the law can also be gained by looking at some random specimens of modern legal English. Here, for example, is a passage from an endowment assurance policy:

 

Whereas a proposal to effect with the Society an assurance on the Life Insured named in the Schedule hereto has been duly made and signed as a basis of such assurance and a declaration has been made agreeing that this policy shall be subject to the Society’s Registered Rules (which shall be deemed to form part of this policy) to the Table of Insurance printed hereon and to the terms and conditions of the said Table and that the date of entrance stated hereon shall be deemed to be the date of this contract and such proposal has been accepted by the Society on the conditions as set forth in the proposal.

 

If we ignore the words used primarily to signal grammatical relationships, which are mainly descended direct from Old English, we find that proposal, effect, society, assurance, insured, schedule, duly, signed, agreeing, policy, subject, rules, form, terms, conditions, date, entrance, contract, and accepted are all derived from French. The words basis, table, declaration, registered, stated, and part are derived from Latin. This leaves us with only life, named, made, deemed, and said as representatives of Old English. A similarly high proportion of Romance to Germanic words would probably be found in most specimens of legal English, and would be equalled by only a few other varieties.  

 

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