Lawrence M. Solan and Peter M. Tiersma

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics


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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics


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The relationship between language and law raises a variety of questions, such as: What is it about legal language that sounds so different, even though it must be some dialect of natural language or we would not understand it at all? What linguistic features of laws and other legal documents make them susceptible to lawyerly manipulation, and is there a way to combat this practice? How does the language of police interaction with citizens, or interaction within the courtroom, reflect the power relationships that people experience when they enter those realms, whether voluntarily or otherwise? Can the explosion of learning about language and cognition be harnessed to produce reliable expert evidence in the courtroom on such matters as identifying people by the way they speak or write? If intellectual property consists of language, does that mean that a person or company can literally own a part of our linguistic heritage? The study of law has become comfortably interdisciplinary in the past thirty years. The major infiltrators were not the language sciences, but rather economics and sociology.

Keywords: law; language; legal language; police; courtroom; cognition; expert evidence; intellectual property; economics; sociology

Article.  4194 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics

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