Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Laws




Dr. Randal Graham


Legal decision-makers use language that can convey unwarranted assumptions about poverty and the poor. These assumptions can be challenged by analyzing the words that judges and adjudicators use when writing about, talking about, and applying social assistance legislation. In many instances, these assumptions do not align with the lived-experience of persons who receive government income support. This thesis aims to uncover the assumptions made in appellate-level decisions through the method of discourse analysis. It uses discourse theory to suggest that the ways imprecise words are given meaning in a legal field can have a profound influence on how the law is understood. It attempts to reorganize the way certain things are talked about and understood by emphasizing a more “inclusive” approach to imprecise meanings in the law.