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2016 Conference - Applied Linguistics in the Courtroom Abstracts
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Colloquium Organizers: Aneta Pavlenko and Diana Eades

You Have the Right to Remain Silent, Do You Understand?
Aneta Pavlenko, Temple University

Applied linguists are frequently asked to provide expert opinion on whether suspects waived their Miranda rights voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. A failure to protect these rights may result in suppression of improperly obtained evidence. But how can we answer this question about a suspect whose English proficiency is not the same as it was a year ago and about an interrogation that was not recorded? Drawing on my experience as expert witness in the case of a friend of the Boston marathon bomber, I will outline procedures that help us recover useful linguistic evidence and reach plausible research-based conclusions.

Is the Defendant Faking a Lower English Proficiency?
Margaret van Naerssen, Immaculata University

The issue of whether a defendant might be faking a lower than truthful English proficiency underlies many cases involving non-native speakers. Even if a linguistics expert finds it is highly likely that a defendant is not faking, one should be prepared to answer the question: Have you considered the possibility the defendant was faking that she/he did not understand much or any English? To answer this question, an expert needs to examine language proficiency data, supplementary tasks, and language evidence, looking for patterns of consistencies and inconsistencies, especially along developmental lines. Several strategies for assessing the possibility of faking are described.

Pragmatic Evidence in Cases Involving Second Dialect Speakers
Diana Eades, University of New England, Australia

In Australia, dialectal differences between Aboriginal English and general Australian English are often at the heart of miscommunication in legal context. This talk looks at how the pragmatics of interaction has been examined in expert linguistic evidence in selected criminal and administrative law cases, addressing questions concerning likely misunderstanding or confusion in interviews – both on the part of Aboriginal interviewees and non-Aboriginal interviewers. I will also discuss how this evidence has been received by courts and tribunals, and lessons learned about how to communicate relevant research and analysis to lawyers and judges, in court and in other contexts.

Applying Linguistics in Court Cases Involving Speak-English-Only Rules in U.S. Workplaces
Keith Walters, Portland State University

This presentation is based on my experience serving as expert witness in three cases involving Speak-English-Only rules in U.S. workplaces. I will focus on three related issues: (a) applying research from various subfields of linguistics (e.g., sociolinguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, bilingualism) to the facts of a case, (b) gathering data and analyzing them in support of an expert opinion, and (c) writing effectively in new genres for legal audiences. I will also share tips I have gotten from the attorneys I have worked with about constructing successful opinions and weathering depositions.

Forensic Linguist versus Sociolinguist: A Battle Within
William Eggington, Brigham Young University

In this talk, I report on a case where, as a forensic linguist, I was asked to ascertain and testify to the English language proficiency of an individual running for elected office. My testimony led to the candidate’s name being stricken from the ballot: a language restrictionist outcome that my sociolinguist, professorial self strongly opposed. After reviewing the particulars of the case, including the multiple procedures used to form my opinion, I discuss how and why a forensic linguist must always follow specific, context-dependent research findings regardless of broader ideological beliefs.

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