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Linguistics and law: two disciplines divided by a common interest in language

Professor Alan Durant (Middlesex University) on linguistics and the law


Analysing the language of legal discourse takes many forms. There is forensic linguistic evidence submitted in specific cases (e.g. author identification of threats and suicide notes; speaker identification of voicemail and intercepts). There are analyses of the language used in police warnings, witness statements, and cross-examination. There are investigations of storytelling techniques and rhetoric in law reports. There are competing interpretations of the form and meaning of statutes and constitutions. And there are general accounts of the constitutive role of language in shaping what law is, for example by means of linguistic performatives.

In this session I will try to distinguish the challenges facing linguistic analysis in these different fields and functions of law. Each area, I will suggest, raises not only different legal questions but often very different linguistic issues. I won't focus on either the legal or the linguistic technicalities, however. Instead, we will use the session to draw out general implications from a series of contrasts between the legal lexicon (law’s terms of art), specialised techniques of legal construction (prescribed, or normative forms of interpretation), and efforts made in law to interpret contested everyday language (for example by appeals to the meaning attributed by the ordinary reader or average consumer). Some of the session will require explication of relevant concepts by me. But many of the points are best made by means of examples, so the session will succeed or not depending on participants’ willingness to apply linguistic intuitions to, and comment on, a range of (I hope interesting) short examples.

Recent publications:

MEANING IN THE MEDIA: DISCOURSE, CONTROVERSY AND DEBATE, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

LANGUAGE AND MEDIA, co-written with Marina Lambrou, Routledge, 2009.


Speaker(s):

Professor Alan Durant | talks | www

 

Date and Time:

21 March 2011 at 5:30 pm

Duration:

1 hour 30 minutes

 

Venue:

English, Middlesex University
The Burroughs
London
NW4 4BT
+44 20 84 11 65 55
http://www.mdx.ac.uk/

More at English, Middlesex University...

 

Tickets:

Free

Available from:

Additional Information:

All welcome. Talks take place in Room M218, Mansion building, Trent Park Campus. Free and open to all. Contact Billy Clark for further details:
b.clark@mdx.ac.uk

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