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Language and the Law in Deaf Communities

Ceil Lucas, Editor

Publication Year: 2003

The ninth volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series focuses on forensic linguistics, a field created by noted linguist Roger Shuy, who begins the collection with an introduction of the issue of language problems experienced by minorities in legal settings. Attorney and linguist Rob Hoopes follows by showing how deaf people who use American Sign Language (ASL) are at a distinct disadvantage in legal situations, such as police interrogations, where only the feeblest of efforts are made to ensure that deaf suspects understand their constitutional rights. Susan Mather, an associate professor of linguistics and interpretation, and Robert Mather, a federal disability rights attorney, examine the use of interpreters for deaf jurors during trials. They reveal the courts’ gross misunderstandings of the important differences between ASL and Signed English. Sara S. Geer, an attorney at the National Association of the Deaf for 20 years, explains how the difficulty in understanding legal terminology in federal law is compounded for deaf people in every ordinary act, including applying for credit cards and filling out medical consent forms. Language and the Law in Deaf Communities concludes with a chapter by George Castelle, Chief Public Defender in Charleston, West Virginia. Although he has no special knowledge about the legal problems of deaf people, Castelle offers another perspective based upon his extensive experience in practicing and teaching law.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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p. v

Editorial Advisory Board

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p. vi

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p. vii

Volume 9 of the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series focuses on the area of forensic linguistics, that is, the area where language and the law intersect. As Roger Shuy (2001) points out, the use of the term forensic linguistics began in the 1980s and is now the accepted name for this area of study. Forensic linguistics has its own academic organization, The International Association of Forensic Linguistics, and its own...

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The Language Problems of Minorities in the Legal Setting

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pp. 1-20

Virtually all people who have had the unfortunate experience of being accused of a crime are at an immediate disadvantage, especially if they are not guilty of some or all of the charges. They enter a new world of discourse, one that is strange and different from any other interaction they have ever encountered (Mellinkoff 1963; Tiersma 1999). Likewise...

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Trampling Miranda: Interrogating Deaf Suspects

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pp. 21-59

The government’s ability to arrest and interrogate an individual suspected of having committed a crime is a police power fundamental to maintaining the social harmony of a society. But, for the individual who suddenly finds himself forcibly restrained, isolated from the outside world, and subjected to questioning by the police, police interrogation can be...

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Court Interpreting for Signing Jurors: Just Transmitting or Interpreting?

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pp. 60-81

With the important assistance of sign language interpreters, deaf people who use sign language are participating in jury service with greater frequency. Experience has shown that using an interpreter does not violate the sanctity of the jury system and the secrecy of jury deliberations, and that a deaf juror may analyze evidence as well as a juror who can...

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When “Equal” Means “Unequal”—And Other Legal Conundrums for the Deaf Community

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pp. 82-167

Laws structure our society and interactions; they affect all of us, every day, in large and in small ways. Laws are made of words. Therefore, the use and interpretation of legal language is unusually important. Understanding legal language is important to lawyers and judges, of course, but also to the rest of society, as our decisions and lives are controlled...

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Misunderstanding, Wrongful Convictions, and Deaf People

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pp. 168-175

In his paper, “The Language Problems of Minorities in the Legal Setting,” Roger Shuy describes the difficulties of resolving legal disputes involving speakers of other languages and deaf people. He provides three troubling examples. First, a young Creole speaker from Hawaii was imprisoned for perjury on the basis of what appears to be a simple misunderstanding, which a linguist could have easily explained. In the second...


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pp. 177-178


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pp. 179-188

E-ISBN-13: 9781563683176
E-ISBN-10: 1563683172
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681431
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681439

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 5 tables
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 68172343
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Language and the Law in Deaf Communities

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Subject Headings

  • Deaf -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
  • Law -- United States -- Language.
  • Forensic linguistics -- United States
  • American Sign Language.
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