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Law & Language - LAW00063H

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Kathryn Wright
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module covers legal and linguistic approaches to a range of contemporary topics, and students work together in cross-disciplinary groups. The module is organised around three themes: Uses and Abuses of Legal Language, Language as Evidence, and Multilingualism & Translation.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

Language is an essential tool of the law. As a law student, you have already gained at least an initial awareness of the structure of legal argument, drafting, interpretation of statutes and judicial reasoning. As a language/linguistics student, you may find the way that language is used to define and enact legal principles of particular interest, especially in view of how so much may rest on how the wording of statutes is prepared and later interpreted. It is also true that certain crimes (fraud, defamation, impersonation, perjury, blasphemy, threats, etc.) are first and foremost language crimes: one can incriminate oneself solely by choosing to phrase an utterance or piece of text a particular way. This module examines explicitly the relationship between law and language, taking on perspectives from other disciplines such as sociology and politics along the way. Seminars are focused around three themes: Uses and Abuses of Legal Language, Language as Evidence, and Multilingualism and Translation.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Reflect on the functions and characteristics of legal language and how they affect communication
  • Evaluate the importance of language in various legal contexts
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the emerging field of forensic linguistics
  • Analyse challenges of multilingualism and translation
  • Apply appropriate methodological approaches to analysing legal texts
  • Synthesise and analyse a variety of information sources to develop further knowledge, construct arguments, draw conclusions supported by appropriate authority, and evaluate the merits of alternative arguments

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 80
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation
N/A 20

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 80
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation
N/A 20

Module feedback

Opportunity for formative feedback on essay plan in discussion with tutors. Formative peer feedback on oral presentation. Summative written feedback from tutors.

Indicative reading

Preparatory Reading

P Tiersma What is Language and Law? And Does Anyone Care? (2009) Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2009-11

Key Texts

P Tiersma, Legal Language (University of Chicago Press 1999)

M Coulthard & A Johnson, An Introduction to Forensic Linguistic Language in Evidence (Routledge, 2007)



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students