Power, Politics, Language and the Law

Courtroom Narrative and Legal Meanings Through the Ages

 

The Institute of Humanities Winter Symposium, organised by two of our research groups: English Language & Linguistics; Power and Politics in Language and Literature.

12 December 2018, 2-6pm, Lipman 332

There are still places left for a fascinating afternoon where leading researchers on language and the law will explore courtroom language from the 17th century to the present day.

If you’d like to come, please email Nicci MacLeod to book your place:

nicci.macleod@northumbria.ac.uk

Here is a summary:

Courtroom Narrative and Legal Meanings Through the Ages

This half-day symposium, bringing together scholars from both Law and Linguistics, seeks to elucidate the nature of courtroom language as represented in proceedings from the 17th century through to the present day. A central concern for forensic linguists and researchers of public discourse, courtroom interactions such as those explored by our speakers have also proved to be an object of interest for legal scholars, literature scholars and historians alike. With reference to real-life cases the speakers will illustrate the varied ways in which language both embodies the institutional authority of the law, and maps neatly on to particular ideologies which permeate that institution and, as a result, our lives.

And here are the abstracts:

Advocacy, history, and story in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913.

Dr Alison Johnson, University of Leeds

This paper examines advocacy through the records of criminal trials left to us in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913 (POB), looking at their value not simply as voices of the past, but just as much of the present, as the traditions of advocacy lie in their roots, and the voices of the advocate are infused by legal practices that are socially and historically constituted. The nearly 200,000 trials in this online resource are too extensive and diverse to tackle as a whole, so, using the methodology that I have developed of creating small sub-corpora in relevant collections (e.g. rape trials of the 18thcentury; a single lawyer’s trials from the 19thcentury; 19thcentury trials with an insanity defence), I illustrate, through vignettes from a range of trials and periods, how distinct advocacies produce different effects: prosecution advocacythat speaks on behalf of the complainant, creative defence advocacythat transforms the prosecution story into one that advantages the defence, the little-discussedjudicial advocacythat sees the judge move from trial manager to co-advocate (with one side), and the risky self-advocacythat sees ordinary people attempting to combine the roles of lawyer and witness. I argue that the complexity of the advocate’s voice is produced through competing forces of dominance and subtlety, explicitness and ambiguity, protection and attack, eloquence and understatement, and restraint and audaciousness; this makes the POBan important source, resource, and reflection of legal voices in society, not only in the 18th and 19th century, but also today.

 . . . 

“As the sun rose…:” Narrative construction in the adversarial courtroom

Dr Kirsty Blewitt, Newcastle University

This research explores how narratives are constructed in the adversarial courtroom system. Data are from two US-based, first degree murder trials concerning the same homicide, where both defendants (who were then husband and wife) were tried separately. Narrative construction referred to the same basic ‘facts’, but differed in their interpretation. Despite this common themes such as time, space, location, responsibility and agency were present in the four versions presented. This study uses a three level conceptualisation of trial interactions, which are; the agenda; macro-level narrative(s); and micro-level interactions. This allows for a contextualised and holistic approach to narrative construction within the trials, as these three elements are seen as being dynamic and reflexive. Narratives are explored drawing on Ricoeur’s (1980) concepts of time and narrative, building on previous conceptualisations of narrative in court (Cotterill, 2003; Heffer, 2005; 2010). Power is viewed through Foucault’s (1982) theory of power relations, and Hutchby’s (1999) discussion of asymmetry in micro-analysis.

 . . .

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’Law through the looking-glass?

Dr Natalie Wortley, Northumbria University

This paper will explore some of the ways in which appeal courts have interpreted key words and phrases in the context of a variety of criminal offences and defences. It will highlight cases in which the courts have assumed a shared understanding of particular words and will consider the potential consequences of such interpretations and assumptions for lawyers, defendants and witnesses/victims. These themes will be developed in the context of cases involving expert witnesses, particularly psychiatrists, where the language of the law may be “out of step with modern psychiatric thinking” (Law Commission, Insanity and Automatism: A Discussion Paper,July 2013).  Measures that are available to assist those who are vulnerable to participate effectively in the criminal process will also be discussed, particularly the adaptation of questioning techniques with a view to ensuring that a witness/defendant is able to give their best evidence.

When and where:

12 December 2018, 2-6pm, Lipman 332

If you’d like to come, please email Nicci MacLeod to book your place:

nicci.macleod@northumbria.ac.uk

 

Where Does The Glottal Stop Start?

jennifersmith

We are very much looking forward to our next Institute of Humanities Research Seminar, which will be delivered on Wednesday 21st November by Professor Jennifer Smith, from the University of Glasgow.

Her talk title is:

Where does the Glottal Stop Start? Community, Caregiver and Child in the Rapid Rise of an Iconic British Variable.

Jennifer is a world-leading researcher in sociolinguistics and on language variation and change. Her projects include very significant work on dialects of Scotland and also on the their relationship to colonial varieties of North America. She also leads the AHRC-funded Scots Syntax Atlas project.

This is sure to be a fascinating talk. It takes place at 4pm in room 121 of the Lipman Building. All welcome.

There is a campus map and directions to the campus here:

https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/contact-us/

Here are links to further information on our Humanities research seminars and other Humanities research events

 

Fiona Shaw: ‘Outwalkers’, ‘Tell It To The Bees’ and Yaddo

 

fionashaw

We are delighted that our colleague Fiona Shaw has been nominated for 2019 CILIP Carnegie Medal for her novel Outwalkers  You can find the full list of nominations here

To add to this, Fiona has also been awarded a month’s residency at the prestigious Yaddo artists’ retreat, whose prior residents have included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Katherine Anne Porter and Jeffrey Eugenideshttps://www.yaddo.org/about/history/

tellittothebees

Meanwhile, the film version of Fiona’s novel Tell It To The Bees has been appearing at festivals, including at Cannes and the Toronto film festival

We are very happy about this well-deserved recognition of Fiona’s work

Orthography, speech production and perception

Our first Linguistics Research seminar this semester will focus on links between how we write (orthography) and how we perceive and produce speech (phonology).

It will be a fascinating talk so do come along if you are in or near Newcastle and you can make it.

The speaker is Dr. Rebecca Ishaku Musa from Newcastle University.

The talk will take place at 2-3pm in the Lipman Building Room 121

There is a campus map and directions to the campus here:

https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/contact-us/

Here is further information:

The effect of L2 English orthographic representations on L1 Tera speakers’ production and perception

Dr Rebecca Ishaku Musa

Abstract

Studies in L2 acquisition of phonology and orthographic input have provided evidence about L2 learners’ phonological development due to orthographic input (e.g. Young-Scholten 2002 and Young-Scholten and Langer 2015). Also, the effects of grapheme-phoneme correspondences leading to non-target like productions (e.g. Rafat 2011 & 2016); and the effects of orthographic representation on pronunciation (e.g. Bassetti 2008 and Bassetti and Atkinson 2015). Studies have also looked at the effect of orthographic exposure leading to epenthesis to resolve complex clusters (e.g. Young-Scholten, Akita and Cross 1999). In this regard, a study was conducted involving L1 Tera (bilingual speakers of Tera/Hausa in Nigeria) learners of L2 English in an experimental study which looked at whether providing L2 English orthographic input would affect the learners underlying representations and in turn their productions.

Data was collected among 73 Tera speaking secondary school students in pre-test and post-test in picture-naming, dictation, ABX epenthesis and reading tasks. Qualitative analysis was conducted using linear phonological operations and rules based on six error categories as follows: vowel epenthesis, consonant cluster reduction, phone substitution, metathesis, loan-word transfer, and orthographic-based errors.

The results revealed transfer from the learners L1 structures which were less complex than the L2 structures resulting in epenthesis of vowels [u] [o] [ɪ] to resolve complex consonat clusters not permitted in their L1, e.g. ’bench’ /benʧ/ → [benʧɪ]; or deletion of segments e.g. ‘lamps’ /lamps/ → [lams]. Also, there was increased effects of orthographic forms due to the complexity of the L2 English grapheme-phoneme correspondences resulting in what Bassetti and Atkinson (2015) refer to as ‘orthography-induced-epenthesis’ e.g. ‘knife’ /naɪf/ → [kinaɪf]. Also metathesis occurred, which is the reordering of words in order to resolve clusters that constitute L1 specific constraints, e.g. ‘desk’ /desk/ → [deks].

 

Induction, quizzing and the new year

 

We’ve had a great start to the new academic year. Lots of lovely and lively students joined us during induction week. Here are some photos from the Humanities Induction Quiz which was great fun.

We were impressed by the general and specific knowledge of the students, and especially by the incredibly high scoring winning team.  Here they are already enjoying their weetabix (other cereals and food groups are available):

quiz 3

We’re looking forward to working with our new and returning students this year!

‘The Freedom of Speech: Talk and slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean world, 1625-1824’

Miles Ogbron QueenMarywebpage

We are very excited by the line-up for this semester’s Institute of Humanities seminar series at Northumbria.

All of these events are free and open to all.

Here’s information on this Wednesday’s talk:

Miles Ogborn (Queen Mary University of London)

will talk on:

‘The Freedom of Speech: Talk and slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean world, 1625-1824’

3 October, 2018, 4-5.30pm, Lipman Building, room 121

You can find directions to the campus and a campus map at:

https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/contact-us/

We’ll share information on the full series soon.

 

 

 

The language of the lake

alexbellosUrosimage

Today’s puzzle from Alex Bellos in The Guardian requires a range of skills which can be developed in English Language programmes (and in other subjects, including maths).

As Alex says, today’s puzzle is ‘hard, but not impossible’. He also suggests that working on puzzles like this can help you develop the skills needed to find a job with technology firms such as google. That suggestions is based on this article by Sam Gibbs in which he reports thoughts from google’s head of search, Ben Gomes.

Alex’s puzzle is one that has been used in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, one of several linguistics olympiads held around the world which then select teams to enter the International Linguistics Olympiad. The UK Linguistics Olympiad has been  very successful with lots of school students taking part each year.

You have until 5pm UK time today to solve it before Alex reveals the answer . . .