Language and Law

Instructor(s): Jeffrey P. Kaplan
Note change of instructors.

Language and Law ("Forensic Linguistics") is an interdisciplinary field based within linguistics. This course will emphasize the following topics:

  • The analysis of legally operative documents (statutes, contracts, etc.)
  • Communication between criminal suspects and police (consent to search, the Miranda 'warning', requests for an attorney)
  • Language crimes such defamation, perjury, threats, and bribery
  • Analysis of surreptitiously recorded conversations involving criminal suspects

Other topics to be addressed may include the language of the law, law about language (language rights), language use in legal settings (e.g., courtroom interpreters), hearsay, and linguistic aspects of First Amendment law.

A theme running through the course will the role of linguistic experts in legal settings, that is, how linguists can (sometimes) help solve legal questions. Class members will read cases in which linguistic issues matter, to get some familiarity with how players in the legal world think and argue, and -- in particular -- to see how those players perceive and deal with linguistic issues.

None. Basic familiarity with syntax and pragmatics will be helpful, but is not required.

Textbook (Available at CU Bookstore):
Title: Speaking of Crime
ISBN: 0-226-76793-0
Author/Editor: Solan & Tiersma
Edition: 2005
Publisher: University of Chicago press