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Spring 2024 Reading Group

Language and the Law: Beyond the Canons

Prerequisites: Legislation and Regulation or equivalent coursework (co-requisite also acceptable)

Exam Type: No Exam

Many legal questions are framed in what sounds like linguistic questions: what does a statute, a contract, or constitution mean? Is a rule ambiguous or vague? Did the accused unequivocally ask for a lawyer? What is hate speech and should it be protected under the First Amendment?

The goal of this reading group will be two-fold. On the one hand to introduce topics in linguistics (like phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, and historical linguistics) and also to explore legal questions that implicate linguistics (like legal interpretation, linguistic due process, the relationship between the courts and legislature, and hate speech).

Students will be encouraged to develop their own understanding of linguistics and its relationship to the law and engage with various competing linguistic and legal theories. Readings, listenings, and watchings will be interdisciplinary, including scholarship from various fields, newspaper articles, videos, cases, statutes, constitutions, songs, and the like.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 25 Jan; 1 Feb; 8 Feb; 15 Feb; 22 Feb; 29 Feb.