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Online Law Dictionaries: How to Provide Help for EFL Text Production by Law Students

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Online dictionaries that assist users in writing legal texts in English as a foreign language are important lexicographic tools. They can help law students bridge the factual and linguistic gaps between the two legal universes involved. However, existing online law dictionaries with English as the target language primarily focus on terms, but students also need to write the remainder of the texts in factually and linguistically correct English. It is therefore important to have a sound theoretical foundation before embarking on a dictionary project that aims to help law students communicate in English as a foreign language. The function theory of lexicography offers an appropriate basis as it focuses on three key concepts: user needs, user competences, and user situations. It is proposed that online dictionaries should be designed to satisfy the lexicographically relevant user needs by containing the types of data that can best satisfy the needs of students at the three stages of legal text production: draft writing, revising and editing. The theoretical aspects discussed are supported by examples from the online CISG Dictionary, which is a lexicographic tool developed to help Danish law students writing assignments in English on a specific legal topic. The dictionary allows users to search a database with carefully selected lexicographic data in several different ways, depending on what type of help users are looking for, and the search results provide users with different data depending on the search option selected.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFachsprache: International Journal of Specialized Communication
Pages (from-to)112-124
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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