LINGUIST List 29.3043

Mon Jul 30 2018

Confs: Forensic Linguistics/China

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

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Date: 29-Jul-2018
From: Dieter Stein <>
Subject: Pragmatics in the Legal Domain
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Pragmatics in the Legal Domain

Date: 09-Jun-2019 - 14-Jun-2019
Location: Hong Kong, China
Contact: Dieter Stein
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Forensic Linguistics

Meeting Description:

Pragmatics in the Legal Domain


Meizhen Liao (CCNU Wuhan, China)
Dieter Stein (HHU Düsseldorf, Germany)
Luping Zhang (CUPL Beijing, China)

The domain of law is not foremost in the minds of scholars dealing with pragmatics. As the experience in practical work with courts and lawyers shows, when legal scholars hear the term „pragmatics“, very likely two issues come to their mind. What comes to mind in law is pragmatism in legal theory, and, at best, speech acts: especially, the high-end performatives which Austin found at hand in courts and in legally sanctioned ceremonies. The first concern is internal to legal theory and at best raises the issue what legal theory and linguistic pragmatics share, the second picks out just one aspect of linguistic pragmatics and uses it to explicate an aspect of legal theory.
Current work in both pragmatics and in law suggests that there are many more areas where “meaning making” in the law can be illuminated by a broadly-conceived concept of pragmatics beyond, but including, speech act theory and its account of indirect speech acts. Even as there are many traditions of legal interpretation which share principles with linguistic pragmatics, pragmatics is the discipline that still appears underexploited when it comes to contributions to the toolkit of legal scholars and to the applied science of forensics as the use of linguistic evidence in resolving crime. And even as common ground in these traditional areas of interpretation goes underdeveloped, further areas are waiting to be explored, across the range of legal genres and their pragmatic rules of interpretation, not only written but especially spoken and digital, and their discourse rules.
The focus of the workshop will be further narrowed by including a contrastive perspective, such as suggested by, e.g., intercultural pragmatics. Sociopragmatics-based difficulties in communication between people from different languages and cultures occur with a vengeance when the legal domain is involved, and differences in legal cultures add to complications. For instance, intercultural communication in the legal setting becomes difficult when participants in the interaction have divergent linguistic, social and pragmatic repertoires and speak different varieties of English. Different legal cultures not only imply different pragmatic ground rules in the conduct of legal processes, such as in oral legal genres, but, for instance, conceptualize different “negative” speech acts as actionable crimes, with the indirectness or literalness of these acts a major issue for actionability.

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