Legal Terms in General Dictionaries of English: The Civil Procedure Mystery

  • Sandro Nielsen
  • November 2015, Stellenbosch University
  • DOI: 10.5788/25-1-1298

How to ensure that new terms are in the dictionaries.

What is it about?

This study examines four general dictionaries of English to see how they treat modern civil procedure terms used in England and Wales since 1999. Despite being based on large, up-to-date corpora the dictionaries contain some of the old terms but fail to include the new terms that have been in use for more than 15 years.

Why is it important?

This paper shows that blind reliance on corpora in dictionary making does not guarantee that the words needed by users are included in dictionaries even if the words have been around for more than 15 years and the dictionaries claim that they are based on large up-to-date electronic corpora. The paper suggests how corpora should be used in dictionary making.


Dr Sandro Nielsen
Aarhus Universitet

This is my take on how lxicographers and others who use corpora in their work can better discover changes in meanings within the field of law by adding a subject-field variant into consideration. This ensures a better match between findings and actual language use.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Sandro Nielsen