The Language of Laws ENGLANG4060

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course applies the study of linguistics to the interpretation of modern and early modern laws and constitutions in English. We explore the challenges of analysing meaning in the law which arise as a result of changing standards, challenging political realities, and the evolution of language and society.


1 x 1hr lecture and 1 x 1hr seminar per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.


This is one of the Honours options in English Language and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into English Language, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses



Portfolio of short exercises, including technical questions - 40%

Statute law written assignment - 40% (word count not applicable)

Reflective blog - 20% (word count to vary depending on assigned question)

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ examine in detail major issues of legal interpretation from a linguistic perspective;

■ develop skills in arguing for and against a range of principles in the analysis of meaning in laws and constitutions;

■ apply linguistic knowledge to texts where the interpretation of meaning has significant real-world consequences.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ interpret the meaning of legislation and constitutions in English critically, drawing on different approaches to language and the law;

■ locate relevant legal sources and assess them critically in terms of their linguistic implications;

■ communicate, in writing, a linguistically-based interpretation of a selected controversial legal issue;

■ argue for the importance of linguistic semantics in codifying and understanding the law.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.