Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Arts

First Supervisor

Professor Ian Malcolm


Legal study requires not only the learning of new content, but also the learning of a new academic discourse with its own lexico-semantic, syntactic, and discoursal features. This thesis explores the answering of legal problem questions as an important and distinct new genre that undergraduates studying law units need to achieve competence in. In order to delineate the general features of this genre, systemic functional linguistic (SFL) analyses were performed on a series of texts (a tutorial question, an assignment question, and an examination question) written by lecturers in the introductory Commerce course Principles of Commercial Law as exemplars of the answering of legal problem questions. SFL analyses were also conducted on a series of student texts (both native and non-native English speaking students' answers to the examination question) which showed that considerable difficulties exist not only with the content, but also with the linguistic demands of writing in this particular genre. It follows that students may require specific training in "picking up the principles". The pedagogical implications for both content and language staff teaching in this area are explored with particular reference to tertiary ESL/EFL students.

Included in

Linguistics Commons