ERIC Number: ED252056
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1982-Jul
Language and the Law: A Case for Linguistic Pragmatics. Sociolinguistic Working Paper Number 94.
Prince, Ellen F.
The emergence of a subfield of linguistics, linguistic pragmatics, whose goal is to discover the principles by which a hearer or reader understands a text or can construct a model based on the text, given the sentence-level competence to parse the text's sentences and assign logical forms to them, is discussed in the context of a court case in which a man sued a company for rescinding an insurance policy because it claimed he had answered several application questions falsely. The theories of linguistic pragmatics were used to analyze the application questions in an effort to determine whether or not the applicant, as a cooperative reader, could answer the questions in good faith without giving the information the application sought. The analysis of the four application questions is outlined in some detail, and problems facing the linguist serving as an expert witness in such a situation are examined. These include the fact that the domain of linguists, language, is explicitly taken to be the domain of the court; the appropriateness of the testimony, varying according to who hears it (whether lawyers alone or with a jury present); and lexical and conceptual differences between lawyers and linguists, as in the use of key terms such as "meaning" and "ambiguous." (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Southwest Educational Development Lab., Austin, TX.