Chapter published in:History of Linguistics 2017: Selected papers from the 14th International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, (ICHoLS 14), Paris, 28 August – 1 September
Edited by Émilie Aussant and Jean-Michel Fortis
[Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 127] 2020
► pp. 221–236
Linguists and lawyers
The first article of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all men are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. It prohibits discrimination based on language, among other criteria, and defines a number of areas in which rights are guaranteed, including legal proceedings, education, elections, health care, commerce and the workplace. Each of these areas has a linguistic component, and every country addresses that linguistic component according to national traditions. After a brief history of the linguistic rights, the first part of this talk will focus on how the legal system in the United States treats those who do not speak English. In a second part we will examine issues within the English language itself, how the legal system uses prescriptive grammars and dictionaries to reach its decisions. While the examples presented will focus on the United States, the issues are universal and readers are encouraged to reflect on how the same issues are addressed in other national contexts.
Keywords: law, lexicography, corpus linguistics, court interpreting, human rights, originalism
Published online: 20 May 2020