Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
PP-Th-am - S2- 4: Parallel papers Thursday morning
Thursday, 04/Jul/2019:
11:00am - 1:00pm

Session Chair: Laura Smith-Khan
Location: Seminar room 2
Storey Hall level 7

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11:00am - 11:30am

Evaluating author intent based on pragmatic principles to inform forensic linguistic investigation of alleged violent word crimes: considering alleged hate speech and written threats.

Karien van den Berg

North-West University, South Africa

In this paper I explore the complex notion of author intent, demonstrating its centrality in forensic linguistic investigations related to potentially violent word crimes, such as hate speech and threats. Author intent (Tiersma, 1986) as a concept is currently under-researched, particularly within a forensic linguistic context. Yet – as I shall argue – alleged violent word crimes cannot be evaluated comprehensively outside of context. Thus, departing from the assumption that language form, use and context are interdependent, I demonstrate in this presentation how author intent may be explored within an extended framework of pragmatic principles, drawing critically on Speech Act Theory (Austin 1962; Searle 1975, 1979), Cooperative Principles (Grice 1957, 1975) and Politeness Theory (Brown & Levinson,1987). First, legal definitions of hate speech and threat are considered, and how these may match to pragmatic notions of illocutionary and perlocutionary force. Then, two examples – one a written threat, and the other an alleged utterance of hate speech – are used to illustrate the centrality of author intent in the evaluation of potential violent word crimes. In conclusion, I briefly evaluate the importance of an author’s linguistic intent, in view of the recipient’s understanding of the message and consequential perlocutionary effect of the utterance, with reference to the situational context. Such an application is potentially useful in informing legal investigations of alleged hate speech crimes and threat evaluation, especially considering the lack of consensus in definitions of such crimes, and standardisation of procedures to evaluate these acts as potential criminal offenses.

11:30am - 12:00pm

Whose voice is it anyway? Ethical issues in legal-linguistic consultancy and engagement

Alison Jeannette Johnson

University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Taking two case studies (CS) as examples, this paper identifies the contrasting and sometimes conflicting positions that the forensic linguistic expert inhabits alongside the legal and lay participants in the legal process, tracing the ethical issues that arise and the questions raised for the various stakeholders. CS1 considers an appeal by an asylum seeker in which the quality of the data raises serious concerns for the expert and the validity of the opinions expressed; and CS2 focuses on a blackmail case where authorship is disputed and where expert, judge, barrister, and defendant are in conflicting and competing positions. In both cases methodological issues of data legitimacy and viability are considered and the paper considers the ways in which experts are sometimes forced to work with data that can be considered "bad data" (Labov 1972) when language is used in evidence in the legal process. The paper asks us to think about how a range of voices are articulated, privileged, silenced, merged, and manipulated in the legal process and asks the provocative question of how expert are the experts? Since advocacy itself is at the heart of the legal system, it also asks us to think about whose voice is actually heard in the legal system and in society at large, building on ideas of voice and discursive practice from the work of Bahktin (1981), Bauman (2005), Hymes (1996) and others.

12:00pm - 12:30pm

Introducing semiotics: an interdisciplinary approach to defamation

Martin Aher, Tiit Kuuskmäe

Mind the Meaning Ltd., Estonia

The era of fake news has brought about a surge of defamation cases. While defamation laws differ by country, defendants generally attempt to avoid charges by obfuscating claims. This leads to forensic linguists being brought in as witnesses to help explicate the meaning of the claims made.

We analyse recent case studies from Estonian courts to discuss how linguists can clarify whether statements include defamatory content. Formal semantics can analyse the textual content of newspaper articles and there’s a general understanding of how to model pejoratives, yet there are aspects that require different approaches.

Newspapers include visual content such as accompanying pictures, cartoons and graphs. These can change the context for the interpreter such that the salient reading of an otherwise neutral statement can become defamatory, or vice versa. Furthermore, the format of newspapers lends itself to highlighting certain contextual features. Work on integrating formal models for language and visual content is still in its infancy.

In order to overcome such shortcomings, we took an interdisciplinary approach to defamation cases and combined semantic and semiotic analyses. Semiotics is the study of signs and sign systems, which integrate visual aspects into its analysis, based on the foundational work by Charles Sanders Peirce and Ferdinand de Saussure. Semioticians also have methods by which to contribute to the context-based analysis of pejoratives.

During the analysis of the case studies, we illustrate how formal semanticists and semioticians can and should work together. We also discuss problems with combining the two analyses.

12:30pm - 1:00pm

Nominalisation in Naming Criminal Offences: Comparing that in the Common Law System and the Chinese Legal System

Zhenhua Wang

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, People's Republic of

Nominalisation in grammatical metaphor has been well documented in Systemic Functional Linguistics. Nominalisation transforms non-nominal groups into nominal ones in the use of language, and in the course of the transference,the specific meaning of the verb, the adjective, or the clause is changed into a more abstract condition. The change in meaning in that process allows for a greater influence of interpersonal meaning, as well as a greater rhetorical effect. The theoretical investigation of nominalisation has lead to greater understanding of the grammatical process involved in a range of contexts. Few scholars however have studied nominalisation in specific disciplines such as the field of law. This paper focuses on the names of criminal offences in both the common law system and the Chinese legal system, and explores the similarities and differences in their nominalisation. The analysis and the exploration of the nominalisation phenomena in both the common law system and the Chinese legal system has found: 1) the two legal systems share similarities in the generation of nominalisation in criminal offences; 2) the two legal systems share similarities in terms of ideational metafunction, but with the naming of criminal offences in the common law system more abstract and the naming in the Chinese legal system more specific; 3) the nominalisation in the Chinese legal system expresses stronger interpersonal meaning than that in the common law system. These findings can help the mutual understanding between the common law system and the Chinese legal system, and the translation practice in this area.

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