Cognitive Structuring of Criminal Appeal Cases in Philippine English and American English
Date of publication:
December 31, 2002
Legal cases present an important resource for teachers of English for Academic Legal Purposes (EALP) because they provide material for the simultaneous practice of legal and linguistic skills. However, the comprehension of legal texts may be difficult on the part of the reader who is not an expert in the area yet. This study was a replication of the study done by Castro (1997), in which the cognitive structure of Philippine criminal cases had been analyzed The aim of the study was to reveal the underlying cognitive structure of appeal cases in both Philippine and American English and determine obligatory and optional elements in the appeal case in both varieties of English. Fifteen American appeal cases from Lex Libris, an electronic collection of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and 15 Philippine appeal cases compiled and published in the Supreme Court Reports Annotated (SCRA), were compared and analyzed. The model of cognitive structuring in legislative writing proposed by Bhatia (1983) was used in analyzing the data. The contrastive analysis showed that both Philippine and American Supreme Court decisions have similar underlying cognitive structures, with certain obligatory moves that are characteristic of legal cases as a distinctive genre of legal discourse. The differences revealed by the analysis were mainly in the moves within the three obligatory parts of the criminal appeal case and in the realization of the moves. Pedagogical implications of using this framework in teaching EALP are also discussed.