Language, the course shows, plays an essential role both in creating law (e.g. in how specific laws are drafted) and in governing its implementation (e.g. in how language is used – and also contested – in court). In examining how language plays these highly important social roles, the course addresses a wide range of topics, including the different registers and genres which give us our idea of what legal language is; the varieties of language, and communicative strategies, used in the courtroom by speakers fulfilling different roles (judge, barrister, defendant, witness, etc.); how language is deployed and understood in technical ways in legal drafting and interpretation; the use of language data as a specialised kind of evidence submitted in court cases; challenges presented to our notions of law and regulation by new forms of online communication; and linguistic and legal issues that arise in bilingual and multilingual jurisdictions (i.e. in systems that formulate and apply their law in two or more different languages).
By the end of the course, students should have developed an appreciation of the texture, structures and functioning of legal language and acquired an understanding of state-of-the-art approaches to a wide range of critical issues that cut across legal and linguistic studies. They will have learnt to approach intellectual problems from multidisciplinary approaches and to reflect on how these approaches can complement each other. Their better understanding of language and justice is transferrable knowledge that can be usefully applied to other scholarly discourses both in law and humanities.