Language and the Law

Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer
Table of contents

Language and law is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that brings together researchers working from a range of different perspectives, especially legal scholars concerned with the role of language in the legal process as well as discourse analysts and sociolinguists who have found legal settings to be a prime site for the investigation of power and inequality in spoken interaction. The field also overlaps to some degree with related fields such as legal anthropology and law and society studies, and it encompasses research in the field of forensic linguistics, in which linguistic analysis is used to address questions of law or law enforcement. In fact, many linguists have been drawn into the study of language and law after being consulted as linguistic experts by legal professionals, for example to identify or characterize a particular linguistic variety, to assess the comprehensibility of a text, or to evaluate the similarity of names in trademark disputes (see e.g. Tiersma & Solan 2002). Much of this research in language and law falls into the field of pragmatics, which will be the focus of this chapter, especially the investigation of spoken interaction in legal settings and the role of speech act theory.

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