Title: Linguistics meets "legalese": syntax, semantics, and jury instruction reform
Author: Janet Randall
Before jurors deliberate a case, the judge reads them a set of "jury instructions." But these directives -- filled with "legalese" and technical courtroom jargon -- often confuse jurors and affect the verdicts that they reach. To tackle this problem, the Massachusetts Plain English Jury Instruction (PEJI) Project is investigating the linguistic causes of jurors' misunderstandings and so far, has identified two: undefined terms and passive verbs. We found that an instruction containing unfamiliar undefined terms:
The standard of proof in a civil case is that a plaintiff must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence and a string of passive verbs:
A preponderance of the evidence is such evidence which, when considered and compared with any opposed to it, has more convincing force and produces in your minds a belief that what is sought to be proved is more probably true than not true. ... is harder to understand than one containing the same unfamiliar term -- but also its definition -- and no passives:
After you hear all the evidence on both sides, if you find that the greater weight of the evidence -- also called "the preponderance of the evidence" -- is on the plaintiff's side, then you should decide in favor of the plaintiff.
Identifying the factors that cause confusion will help us to revise legal language for better understanding, leading to more reliable verdicts and a fairer judicial system overall.
Title: Lexical Stability and Kinship Patterns in Australian Languages
Author: Claire Bowern
Some words for family members do not change much. European words for 'mother,' 'father,' 'brother,' and 'sister,' for example, have mostly been in
|Contact: Alyson Reed|
Linguistic Society of America