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Language and the Law

18.08.2005 - (idw) Universität des Saarlandes

Workshop at the DGfS annual conference;
Date: 22-Feb-2006 - 24-Feb-2006;
Location: Bielefeld, Germany;
Contact Person: Monika Rathert;
Meeting email:;
Meeting URL:;
Linguistic Fields: Forensic Linguistics, Text/Corpus Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, Computational Linguistics;
Call Deadline: 1-Sep-2005;

Short meeting description: Language and the Law (Sprache und Recht), Workshop at the 28th annual meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS), Bielefeld, 22-24 February 2006. Organized by Guenther Grewendorf (Universitaet Frankfurt, Institut fuer Kognitive Linguistik) and Monika Rathert (Universitaet Saarbruecken, Germanistik);

Call information:
The linguistic form of legal texts is decisive, language has an impact on law. Terming embryos "nascent life" or "human life" has different consequences for their legal protection. We are interested in interdisciplinary research on the following issues.

1. Comprehensibility
It is often claimed that legal texts are incomprehensible. However, the comprehensibility of a text does not depend on objective features such as sentence length. Instead, it is determined by the cognitive abilities of the recipient. Psycholinguistic methods such as eyetracking, priming or cloze procedure help to quantify comprehensibility for different groups of recipients. Results of this research may contribute to the optimization of legal texts.

2. Forensic Linguistics
Forensic phonetics is usually occupied with speaker identification by speech analysis. However, recent experiments also investigate the impact of stress, drugs or alcohol on speech. If the author of a text is unclear, a textlinguistic analysis using corpuslinguistic tools can at least categorize the author. However, intruding factors such as register or deception have to be taken into account.

3. Multilingualism and legal terminology
The EU's multilingualism is a challenge for both (machine) translation and the interpretation of legal texts. Legal terms having a fixed meaning in one of the Member States (like French ordre public, German Verhaeltnismaessigkeitsgrundsatz) cannot easily be translated into the language of another Member State because the legal systems are not comparable. Existing multilingual dictionaries like the Eurodicautom have well known shortcomings. In addition to this, it has to clarified systematically how differences between versions of legal texts within the EU can be solved.

Submission of abstracts: Please send your anonymous one-page abstract to The abstract should be in plain text or in PDF format, and it should be in English or German only. Please include the following information in the body of the email: author's name(s), affiliation, email address, title of the abstract. The normal time alotted for presentation is 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. Please note if you would be interested in a longer time-slot.

Important dates: Deadline for abstract submission: 1 September 2005; Notification of acceptance: 15 September 2005; Provisional program: 15 December 2005; DGfS Conference: 22-24 February 2006
Weitere Informationen: - Meeting URL
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