The Journey to Comprehensibility: Court Forms as the First Barrier to Accessing Justice

Grieshofer, Tatiana and Gee, Matt and Morton, Ralph (2021) The Journey to Comprehensibility: Court Forms as the First Barrier to Accessing Justice. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique. ISSN 0952-8059

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The article explores the comprehensibility of court forms by providing a quantitative overview and a qualitative analysis of such syntactic characteristics as length and structure of sentences and noun phrases. The analysis is viewed in the broader context of genre characteristics of court forms, their role within legal proceedings, and their function for eliciting narratives from court users. The findings show that while the elicitation strategies are not always coherently aligned with the guidance sections, the guidance itself condenses legal and procedural information into overly complex and verbose syntactic constructions. Comprehensibility barriers are thus created through breaks in information flow, ambiguous syntactic constructions, missing information and misalignment between questions and guidance. Such comprehension challenges have a negative impact on the potential of court users to effectively engage with legal proceedings.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
16 October 2021Accepted
15 November 2021Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: court forms, comprehension, written legal discourse, litigants in person, procedural justice, noun phrases
Subjects: CAH16 - law > CAH16-01 - law > CAH16-01-01 - law
CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-07 - linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > School of English
Depositing User: Tatiana Tkacukova
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2021 11:55
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2021 15:59

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