University of Technology Sydney

78241 Reading the Law: Language, Power and Ideology

Requisite(s): ((22 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C07122 Graduate Diploma Legal Studies OR 22 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04264 Master of Legal Studies)) OR ((94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04236 Juris Doctor OR 142 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04250 Juris Doctor Master of Business Administration OR 94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04363 Juris Doctor Master of Intellectual Property OR 94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04364 Juris Doctor Graduate Certificate Trade Mark Law and Practice) AND 70106c Principles of Public International Law AND 70107c Principles of Company Law) OR (94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04320 Juris Doctor Graduate Certificate Professional Legal Practice AND 70106 Principles of Public International Law)
The lower case 'c' after the subject code indicates that the subject is a corequisite. See definitions for details.
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Language is of central importance to the law; indeed, there would be no law without language. Judgments, legislation and legal proceedings employ specific linguistic forms. In many legal cases, there are issues of interpretation and ambiguity, such as in relation to the words in a conversation, a term in a contract or a provision in a statute. The legal profession recognises the importance of language, particularly oratory skills, legal argument and reasoning, as well as the use of plain language. As an institution, the law is even regarded as having its own register, referred to as 'legalese'.

This subject builds core skills that students need to critically examine the relationship between the law and language. Students develop practical research skills to identify and synthesise resources including book chapters, journal articles and online sources that introduce seminar topics. Critical analysis and writing skills, as well as communication skills, are developed through students' close reading and rigorous discussion of texts addressing law as language and discourse. Students study and compare key linguistic theories including sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis, narrative theory and semiotics. Using linguistic theories, students actively assess and critique legal texts, such as police interviews, contracts, legislation, court trial transcripts and judgments. Students apply a nuanced understanding of each linguistic theory to explain how the law uses language to exercise power and create meaning.

In seminar preparation and discussion, students engage with how the law is structured by class, gender, race and culture and explore how poor English-language skills may lead to disadvantage in the legal system. The subject examines how legal players construct important concepts, such as consent, provocation, intention and 'the reasonable person'. Students analyse and evaluate how language affects issues of justice, fairness and equality.

Detailed subject description.

Access conditions

Note: The requisite information presented in this subject description covers only academic requisites. Full details of all enforced rules, covering both academic and admission requisites, are available at access conditions and My Student Admin.