Linguistics and Law: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Linguistics and Law

1st Edition

By Jeffrey P Kaplan


248 pages | 14 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138326156
pub: 2019-07-31
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Linguistics and Law offers a clear and concise introduction to making sense of the law through linguistics. Drawing on lexical semantics, syntax, and pragmatics to interpret both written and spoken laws, this book:

  • addresses how to interpret legal documents such as contracts, statutes, constitutional provisions and trademarks;
  • provides thorough analyses of spoken ‘language crimes’ including solicitation, threats and conspiracy as well as talk between police and criminal suspects, with special attention to the Miranda warning;
  • tackles the question of whether there is a ‘language’ of the law;
  • draws on real-life case studies to aid understanding and includes a list of annotated list of further reading at the end of each chapter.

Written in an approachable, conversational style and aimed at undergraduate students with little or no prior knowledge of linguistics or law, this book is essential reading for those approaching this topic for the first time.


"Kaplan tells us, "there is literally no better training for law than linguistics," then backs this up his claim with vivid examples of criminal cases that result from simple police stops, Miranda warnings, police interviews, confessions, perjury, and courtroom testimony. But that’s not all. He does the same with civil cases involving disputes about contracts, trademarks, and the interpretation of statutes, all of which include fascinating stories that convince readers that language and law are closely intertwined. The author’s refreshingly readable, informal style is bound to have an immediate appeal to both experts and novices. This book is an excellent choice for teachers to use as they introduce this fascinating topic either to students of law or linguistics."

Roger W. Shuy, Georgetown University, USA

"In this book, Kaplan clearly and engagingly demonstrates how many legal issues raise questions that could be best addressed through applying a scientific understanding of how language works. Whether the reader has a grounding in linguistics and is interested in how linguistic analysis could apply to issues in the law or the reader is legally trained and wants to understand how legal analysis could benefit from the science of linguistics, this book will be equally indispensable."

Janet Ainsworth, Seattle University School of Law, USA

Table of Contents

Chapter One. Introduction.

Chapter Two. Detention and arrest.

Chapter Three. Miranda.

Chapter Four. Understanding recorded talk.

Chapter Five. Crimes of language (and one tort).

Chapter Six. The "language" of the law.

Chapter Seven. Contracts.

Chapter Eight Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation. 

Chapter Nine. Trademarks.

Chapter Ten. Conclusion.

About the Author

Jeffrey P. Kaplan is professor of linguistics at San Diego State University, USA and a research associate affiliated with the linguistics program at Western Washington University, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Guides to Linguistics

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
LAW / Communications