Author Date


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Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Brett Hashimoto

First Faculty Reader

Dane Thorley

Honors Coordinator

Don Chapman


pronominal adverbs, legal language, corpus linguistics, plain English movement


Legal language is distinctive and sometimes difficult to understand. One type of word that appears to be part of so-called ‘legalese’ is the pronominal adverb (PA). The purpose of this thesis is to examine the prevalence of PAs in legal registers compared to more general registers of contemporary American English to determine the extent to which these words are distinctly legal. The study will also explore why different types of PAs may be (in)frequent in specific legal registers to better understand their use. The frequency of PAs was extracted from corpora that are designed to represent six registers of English (3 legal—contracts, statutes, and court opinions; 3 non-legal—academic articles, news articles, and TV/movie transcripts). The rate of occurrence of PAs per text were then compared across registers using a non-parametric analysis of variance including the Kruskal-Wallis test and the Dunn post-hoc test. Results indicate that there is a significant difference between the frequency of PAs in non-legal and legal registers of English. The post-hoc tests also reveal that there is also a significant difference in the frequency of PAs in each legal register. A closer examination of the PAs considered both individually as well as grouped by locative adverb (i.e., here-, there-, and where-) indicates that some PAs are also more distinctive to certain legal registers. This study opens the discussion as to the utility and necessity of PAs in legal language and provides suggestions for legal writers on how to remove these words without inhibiting clarity or effectiveness.