Archive for the ‘Language and Law’ Category

Semantics and pragmatics in a Florida shooting

The dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that.” Was she telling George Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon Martin, or was she simply letting him know that the police didn’t care either way? For readers not familiar with the case, the quote comes from a conversation between Zimmerman and a police dispatcher in Florida […]

Explaining forensic linguistics

The July 23, 2012, issue of the New Yorker magazine has a very good article about forensic linguistics, the use of linguistic tools in the legal system. The article, titled “Words on Trial,” was especially interesting to me. The first two linguists mentioned in the article, Robert Leonard and James Fitzgerald, were my Forensic Linguistics […]

What is “that”?

“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” That quote introduced a fund-raising e-mail I received from the Mitt Romney campaign. As most people following the campaigns for President of the United States know by now, the quote is taken out of context. The current president, Barack Obama, did […]

Profane? No, merely vulgar.

Which words need to be bleeped out on television? Who is offended by what? Some explanation about why what is called profanity is not always profane, prompted by a recent court ruling overturning a fine by the FCC.

Who understands jury instructions?

An obstacle to justice: jury instructions are not easily understood by the average juror. Why specialists in communication should be part of the effort to write jury instructions, along with judges and law professors.