Honors | Language & Law
L210 | 9766 | Newman
Textbook: None (A course packet is in preparation. We will also use
actual court cases available on the web.)
Instructor: Paul Newman
Language and law interact in a multitude of ways. This course
will explore that interaction from two main perspectives.
First, we will look at ways in which language has an impact on the
legal setting and on legal processes. Examples include the semantic
interpretation of legal documents (e.g., is half a pound the same as 8
ounces?); the influence of word choice in questioning witnesses on
their memory of events; the impact of linguistic style on the
effectiveness of courtroom testimony; the treatment of people with
limited English profieciency in the courts (including the role of
interpreters); and forensic linguistics, i.e., the role of linguists
in solving legal questions (e.g., from a recording, can one determine
whether a defendant was drunk at the time?).
Second we will look at laws and regulations about language, i.e.,
laws that control or restrict language use. Examples include trademark
(e.g., would use of the name "McSleep" for a motel chain violate
McDonald's' trademark?), copyright, plagiarism, perjury (e.g., "I
didn't have sex with that woman"), campus hate speech codes, political
correctness in public school textbooks, laws regarding the use of
languages other than English (e.g., bilingual education (but also note
judicial rulings in which courts have dictated what language a parent
may use with his child)), the English-only/official-English movement,
and the plain English movement.
The intention is that the course will be socially enlightening as
well as intellectually challenging. Students will be expected to
attend classes regularly and participate fully in class discussions
and activities. There will be short writing assignments throughout the
semester, but no long/onerous term paper at the end.
The instructor (Ph.D., UCLA) is Distinguished Professor of
Linguistics. He also has a J.D, degree from the I.U. School of Law and
is a member of the Indiana Bar.