The Legal–Lay Interface in The Highway Code
Describing it as ‘a curious beast’, Bethan Davies chronicles the textual travels of the Highway Code as it migrates back and forth between the categories of legal document and lay advice manual. The Highway Code is an official document, styled as the ‘rules of the road’ for the British road user, and also contains practical advice about using the road. Davies focuses on the use of modality and ‘vague or flexible language’ – words like ‘possible’ and ‘practical’ – in the text, and how well these and their legal implications are understood by The Highway Code’s different user groups. Some lay users fail to understand how the legal status of rules is indexed linguistically in The Highway Code, and those that do understand its status are often equally unable to find an uncontested reading of a particular rule. Thus, Davies concludes, this is not a text that travels well.
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