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LEGAL LANGUAGE INJEWISH AND CHRISTIAN DOCUMENTS OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY Elaine R. Miller Georgia State University In the field ofSephardic language, debate continues aboutwhether the fifteenth-century Iberian Jews, while residing in Iberia, spoke the same variety ofCastilian (or any other Ibero-Romance dialect) as neighboring Christians, or whedier they spoke a distinctively Jewish dialect .1 One particularly notable document that has been used as evidence in this debate is the taqqanôt (statutes) ofValladolid, composed in 1432. These statutes, approved by representatives of all the Jewish communities of Castile, are in Hebrew script, but the language is a combination of Hebrew and Castilian. The laws they contain regulated many aspects ofdieJews' lives: the topics addressed include education, taxation , election ofjudges, treatment of informers, and sumptuary law. While I have personally used diese taqqanôt as evidence for the distinctiveness of die Jewish variety of Ibero-Romance, the document also demonstrates characteristics that are consistent with Christian communities ' language use at the time. One such case is legal phraseology. Legal writing is, in all societies, a highly constrained genre, filled widi formulaic, often archaic, expressions that are frequendy parallel across different languages and cultures.2 A comparison of the taqqanôt with several fifteendi-century Christian legal texts suggests that the legal 1 Many scholars have weighed in on this debate; see, for example, Tracy K. Harris, Coloma Lleal, Simón Marcus, Elaine R. Miller (JewishMultiglossia), Ralph ïtenny, LS. Révah, Ana Riaño, Haim Vidal Séphiha, Alberto Várvaro and Paul Wexler. - On legal language see, among others, Frederick Bowers, Veda R. Charrow, Brenda Danet ("Language in the Legal Process"), John Gibbons, David Mellinkoff, Lawrence M. Solan, and Peter M. Tiersma, all ofwhom focus on English. Carles Duarte Montserrat and La corónica 32.1 (Fall, 2003): 287-305 288Elaine R. MillerLa coránica 32.1, 2003 language ofboth religions used many similar lexical items and syntactic constructions. Examples will be drawn first from the Siete Partidas, the law code compiled in the diirteenth century by order of Alfonso X. Although they utilize the legal style of the thirteenth century, they served as a model, both in content and in style, for centuries after their creation. Comparisons will then be made with a variety of fifteenth -century Iberian legal texts. Some of these are included on ADMYTE disk I, such as the Ordenanzas de la Ciudad de Sevilla, composed in 1492; the Leyes hechas por la brevedady orden de los pleitos, from 1499, and Capítulos de gobernadores, asistentes y corregidores, 1500, all written by order of Fernando and Isabel. Other texts come from the Corpus del español (= CdE;; also included are comparisons from the statutes written in Valladolid in 1412 by King Juan II, using a printed edition (Fritz Baer 263-72). I. Characteristics of Legal Language "Legal language has always differed from ordinary speech" in the words of one scholar (Tiersma 7), and such is the case whether the legal document in question comes from the fifteenth century or die twenty-first, and whether the language is English, Castilian or Hebrew . Studies of legalese in English and in Spanish have encountered many of the same characteristics in both languages (Gibbons 41-45). Mellinkoff lists nine characteristics of legal language in English, including the use of common words with uncommon meanings, the use ofrare words, the use of Latin, Old French, and Anglo-Norman words, and the use of argot, formal words, and "terms of art" (Mellinkoff 1 1). Identical or similar traits can be found in medieval Castilian legal language as well (Brian Dutton, Julia Ángeles Giménez Jurado, Colin Smidi). These shared features play a large role in creating die sense of authority which is characteristic of the legal genre. The use of archaic language, for example, serves as a link to the past and invokes die Anna Martinez cover contemporary Spanish legalese as well as providing a general overview oflegal language; Danet ("The Magic Flute") addresses binomials in contemporary legal Hebrew. 3 The corpus del español is a 100 million word corpus ofSpanish texts from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries, including 281 texts from the thirteenth through...


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