Language and Law

Gregory Matoesian

in The Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199744084
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Language and Law


This chapter focuses on the complex yet elusive relationship between language, law, and sociocultural context. It discusses the sociocultural dimensions of language and law, paying particular attention to the role of power in legal discourse. The first section discusses the major contributing approaches to the sociocultural analysis of language and law: conversation analysis, linguistic anthropology, and, to a lesser extent, Critical Discourse Analysis. The second section covers substantive studies from what has been referred to as the language and power school of legal anthropology: Law school socialization, police–citizen interaction, courtrooms, bilingual encounters, and cross-cultural misunderstandings in legal interviews and translation. The last section suggests a new direction for the study of language and law, one that may provide a deeper understanding of language, law, and sociocultural context.

Keywords: language and law; conversation analysis; linguistic anthropology; Critical Discourse Analysis; legal anthropology; law school socialization

Article.  8183 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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