Terminology and the role it plays in law dissertations

When the subject is law – and it binds in its purview all social, moral, psychological, monetary and human conditions – judicious use of words to define a case or condition has a critical bearing on its results.

Take for instance the expression ‘natural law’ – while in common parlance it should suggest the rules by which nature sustains itself – under the umbrella of law, its connotation changes to include ethics and moral parameters. Thus an understanding of legal translations and terminology is crucial to the success of a law dissertation.

Before beginning a dissertation in law it is therefore important to know and understand where one stands vis-a-vis the topic. If it is one which is very close to your heart or you might be too passionate about the subject – then critical judgment might fail you in neutrally examining the vast gamut of connotations in terminology. This is especially true of the deeply humanitarian aspects of law and jurisprudence. Thus the value of neutrally examining each terminology or being ‘open minded’ about their usage is so vital to making a law dissertation work.

Thus critical thinking while exploring the subject or certain terms, and in thinking and writing about the topic is absolutely essential for law students. Words like privacy, force, human etc. fall under this ambit of ambivalence, and need in-depth clarification. Such expressions should be explained with adequate examples.

While apart from English words and their connotations; a vast repository of legal terminology has been adopted from various European languages, Latin being the major one among those. Take for instance words like Ab inito, Actus reus or Ad infinitum. This is but a miniscule portion of the vast usage of Latin terms whose clear understanding and usage is vital for any law student. The same holds true for French terms, which fill the pages of legal matter, and whose usage in the modern French of today is actually limited. Words like defendant, parole, mortgage, culprit, or bailiff are used widely in the English speaking courts.

Since the whole premise of jurisprudence is based on disproving or discarding the other point of view – a finer and keen understanding of every term used is important. In this regard under the purview of law certain words take on a whole new meaning than their regular usage. Take for instance the word acknowledgement – in strict legal terms it suggests “the act of going before a qualified officer (e.g., Clerk) and declaring the validity of the document. The officer certifies same, whose certification is known as the acknowledgment”. This interesting facet extends to words like ‘appearance’, ‘award’ or ‘action’ where their legal bindings suggest an entirely different meaning.

The value of terminology is thus crucial in law. For students of law a thorough understanding of these words – their legal implications as well as their regular connotations is a key to a successful career in law.

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