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Volume 5, Number 2 (December 1998)


Lawrence M. Solan

Linguistic experts as semantic tour guides

This article examines the phenomenon of linguists testifying as experts on meaning in legal disputes over the interpretation of statutes, contracts, transcripts of tape-recorded conversations, and other important legal texts before courts in the USA. It concludes that there is an important role for linguists in such cases – the role of the tour guide. It suggests that judges need not be concerned about linguists usurping the traditional roles of the judge and the jury as ultimate interpreters provided that the linguist’s testimony is appropriately circumscribed.
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Jeffrey P. Kaplan

Pragmatic contributions to the interpretation of a will

The ultimate meaning of a holographic will lacking all conventional indicia of sentence boundaries (capitalization, punctuation) was the subject of litigation. At the sentence level, the will was ambiguous, but syntactic and (especially) pragmatic analysis led to a clear construal of the text. The main evidence derived from an application of Grice’s maxim of quantity, with support from the maxim of relevance. The linguistic analysis was echoed by the court’s decision.
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Bethany K. Dumas and Ann C. Short, Esq.

Linguistic ambiguity in non-statutory language: problems in ‘The search warrant in the matter of 7505 Derris Drive’

When a motion to suppress was filed in a federal prosecution, this question arose: Did the search warrant authorize the FBI to seize the evidence sought to be suppressed? The warrant described certain items that could be seized, including both accounting documents and items such as notes and memoranda. A linguist testified about the current meanings of the non-accounting terms and the scope of the modifying clauses, ‘which will disclose the sale and receipt of automobiles, both rebuilt and salvage’ and ‘which will reveal the identities and location of co-conspirators’. This article summarizes the implications and context of those questions, presents the linguist’s answers, and reports the judicial response.
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Janet Cotterill

‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’: metaphor and the O.J. Simpson criminal trial

This paper analyses the use of metaphor in the prosecution and defence closing arguments of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial as a conceptualizing device for both the trial and its participants. It studies the relative distribution of these representations, which include military, sporting and theatrical metaphors. Moreover it shows that these metaphorical constructs serve very different functions; in the prosecution closing argument as a structuring device, and in the defence equivalent as a dramatic highlighter of particular individuals and events. The paper continues with a detailed analysis of two specific metaphorical references: the criminal trial as the completion of a jigsaw puzzle and Simpson, the defendant, as an unpredictable time-bomb.
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Bruce Fraser

Threatening revisited

This paper considers the act of verbal threatening. I first examine what constitutes a verbal threat, concluding that it involves conveying both the intention to perform an act that the addressee will view unfavourably and the intention to intimidate the addressee. I then compare threatening to promising and warning, and I examine the ways in which a speaker may issue a threat, given that one can never guarantee success in threatening. Finally, I look at the multitude of factors that must be considered if one is to conclude that a serious threat was made.
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Mark Newbrook and Jane M. Curtain

Oates’ theory of Reverse Speech: a critical examination

David Oates claims to have discovered a language phenomenon which he has labelled Reverse Speech (RS). According to Oates, during speech two messages are communicated simultaneously: one forwards and heard and responded to consciously, and the other (RS) in reverse and heard and responded to unconsciously. RS can allegedly be heard as clear, grammatical statements mixed in amongst gibberish. The content of reversals is said to relate to the forward dialogue, and often accentuates the forward speech. It is also said to reveal unspoken thoughts which may be in contradiction to forward speech; therefore, it can be an effective tool to discover unspoken truths. Oates conducted an experiment which produced results suggesting that untrained listeners are able to hear RS. This experiment was replicated by the authors and the results – as well as Oates’ many naïve claims regarding language – suggest that RS is illusory.
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Krzysztof Kredens and Grazyna Góralewska-Lach

Language as sole incriminating evidence: the Augustynek case

This paper addresses the issue of evidence based upon speech analysis as used in criminal courts. By way of illustration, a case heard in a Polish court is described, in which the accused was found guilty of extortion effectively on the basis of linguistic evidence. References are made in the report to forensic phonetic casework and points raised regarding the methodology of forensic speaker identification.
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Henry Rogers

Foreign accent in voice discrimination: a case study

This article describes the phonetic analysis of a case of speaker identification involving a foreign accent. A taped telephone message in English with a Cantonese accent resulted in the arrest of Lo, a Cantonese speaker. The investigation compared the voice on the tape with that of Lo, particularly noting the accent in English. In several places, close auditory examination showed that Lo had a stronger accent in English than that of the voice on the tape. Acoustic analysis corroborated this view. The theoretical point underlying the conclusion is that non-native speakers can imitate a stronger accent than they normally use, but not a weaker accent.
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Book Reviews
J. M. Conley and W. M. O’Barr
Just Words: Law, Language and Power (reviewed by Diana Eades)
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Roger W. Shuy
The Language of Confession, Interrogation and Deception (reviewed by Janet Cotterill)
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User: WEIMING LIU
Session: 18888
Forensic Linguistics is published by the University of Birmingham Press.

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西北政法大学外国语学院刘蔚铭教授创建与维护

2002-05-062008-01-25