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Getting language right matters

Date:4 SEP 2023
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Marian Roberts Family Mediator

Recent recommendations from the Family Solutions Group renew a longstanding focus on legal language as a potential source of conflict by proposing wholesale language changes for court forms legal proceedings lawyers and for the wider public including professionals. A terminological glossary is devised to replace current usages with a more anodyne vocabulary for example of ‘problem-solving’ ‘well being’ ‘co-operative parenting’ and ‘positive thriving childhoods’. These exhortations however well meaning may be at odds with the reality of the current lives of many separating families exacerbated by poverty abuse mental health problems and children with special needs.

While welcoming moves to reduce the language of fight and for plain English this article raises concerns over some generic terminological replacements involving semantic conflations in terms of generalised aspirations. What these may gain in emollience and neutrality may be lost in precision accuracy specificity and congruence with professional interventions where clarity of professional boundaries is essential for effective collaboration among family professionals.

The proposal in particular to remove the concept of ‘dispute’ could have radical repercussions...

Read the full article here.