Discursive Illusions in Legislative Discourse: A Socio-Pragmatic Study

Aditi Bhatia, Vijay K. Bhatia

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper takes the position that interpretations of legal discourse are invariably taken in the context of socio-pragmatic realities to which a particular instance of discourse applies. What makes this process even more complicated is the fact that social realities themselves are often negotiated within the mould of one's subjective conceptualisations of reality. Institutions and organisations, including people in power, often represent socio-political realities from an ideologically fuelled perspective, engendering many 'illusory' categories often a result of contested versions of reality. To substantiate this view, we discuss interpretations of a number of interesting contemporary and controversial laws, including America's Patriot Act and Hong Kong's proposed Article 23 of the Basic Law. Both laws can be seen as illustrative of the definitional conflict that abstract concepts such as democracy and human rights are subjected to in their own specific socio-political contexts. While America crowns itself with democracy and Hong Kong struggles to achieve it in effective synthesis with its unique political arrangement, the laws produced by both contrasting political systems are unexpectedly similar, aiming for the moderation of basic rights. The actions of both governments set against their beliefs and discourses, and furthermore set against one another and other media voices, particularly those of non-governmental organisations, political activists, and other socio-political groups, demonstrate contestation of realities, giving rise to 'discursive illusions', which seem to be interpreted not so much on the basis of their linguistic construction but more on the basis of socio-pragmatic factors, such as trust, belief, transparency, control and power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Discursive illusions
  • Genre analysis
  • Legislation
  • Multiperspective and multidimensional analysis
  • The Basic law of Hong Kong
  • The Patriot Act

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Language and Linguistics


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