The contracts word list: Integral vocabulary for reading and writing English contracts

Elizabeth Hanks, Brett Hashimoto, Jesse Egbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both Business English as a Lingua Franca (BELF) and Legal English as a Lingua Franca (LELF) users engage with legal contracts regularly. However, contractual language is notoriously complex, due in part to the vocabulary it contains. To help mitigate the challenges related to learning the vocabulary of contracts, this paper introduces a word list of American English contracts called the Contracts Word List (CWL). We describe the compilation of the Corpus of English Business Contracts (CEBC) that represents six major contract types in 48 million words. The extraction of prevalent and specialized words from the CEBC is described, following validation procedures in terms of the word list's reliability and stability. The final word lists contains 684 lemmas along with definitions, parts of speech, illustrative concordance lines, and adjusted frequencies from the full corpus and each major contract sub-type. We provide recommendations to ELF professionals and teachers on using the CWL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-48
Number of pages12
JournalEnglish for Specific Purposes
StatePublished - Jul 2024


  • Contracts
  • Corpus research
  • Vocabulary
  • Word list creation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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