Jury Instructions in Hong Kong: A Gricean Perspective


  • Le Cheng Zhejiang University & China University of Political Science and Law
  • Winnie Cheng The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Jian Li Zhejiang Gongshang University




jury instructions, Hong Kong, Gricean maxims, Cooperative Principle, rationality, interpretative force


Most previous studies on jury instructions have been confined to legalese such as the lexical and syntactic features of jury instructions. This study, drawing on reported cases on jury instructions from the Hong Kong judiciary, aims to examine jury instructions in Hong Kong to better explore how jury instructions are given in Hong Kong, being a common-law jurisdiction, and to argue that Grice’s Cooperative Principle can be usefully adopted to examine jury instructions in order to shed some light on the drafting of jury instructions. The study argues that the principle of rationality, a deeper-level of observance of Gricean maxims, which underlies the Cooperative Principle, has interpretative force on jury instructions in the case of non-observance of conversational maxims, and that, in the court judgments examined, non-observance of the fundamental communicative principle usually constitutes a good ground for appeal, although the opposite is also true. It therefore provides a pertinent demonstration of the differences of the operation of Gricean maxims in lay and legal contexts.

Author Biographies

Le Cheng, Zhejiang University & China University of Political Science and Law

Le Cheng is Professor and Director of Center for Legal Discourse and Translation at Zhejiang University. He is an adjunct professor at China University of Political Science and Law. He is the Chief Editor of International Journal of Law, Language & Discourse, co-editor of Translated Series on Law and Language, Secretary General and Vice President of Multicultural Association of Law and Language and Scientific Committee of International Academy of Linguistic Law. His interests and publications are in the areas of legal translation and interpreting, semiotics, language and law, LSP, corpus studies, jurisprudence, and discourse analysis.

Winnie Cheng, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Winnie Cheng is Associate Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Professor of English and Director of Research Centre for Professional Communication in English (RCPCE), Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She is a Founding Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities. Her research interests include corpus linguistics, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, discourse intonation, ESP, intercultural pragmatics and communication, professional and organisational communication, and writing across the curriculum.

Jian Li, Zhejiang Gongshang University

Jian Li is Associate Professor of Forensic Linguistics and Phonetics, School of Foreign Languages, Zhejiang Gongshang University. Her interests and publications are in phonetics and phonology, legal discourse and translation, semiotics and discourse analysis.


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How to Cite

Cheng, L., Cheng, W., & Li, J. (2015). Jury Instructions in Hong Kong: A Gricean Perspective. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 22(1), 35–56. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.v22i1.15400