Law, Language, and the Law
In this chapter we survey the literatures and scholarship that provide the theoretical and empirical foundations for this research, focusing on issues of language and law. It is through language that social problems are translated into legal issues. At the broadest level, this study brings together two related inquiries: Is there a distinctive approach to translation embodied in the canonical legal language taught to law students? And if so, how do people learn to use that distinctive language as they become legal professionals—in their first months of training to be the lawyers and judges whose voices and writings perform the act of legal translation? To address these questions, we need to develop an understanding of how language operates in legal and other social settings. After all, it is through language that the law works to shape our lives, and it is through language that people, including professionals, come to understand the world in particular ways.
Thus, in the law school classroom, a seemingly narrow domain, we actually find a fascinating nexus of wider processes. This study uses a close analysis of law school language to ask broad questions about the role of language in the constitution of selves, law, and society. It is obvious that an adequate reply to such questions would demand interdisciplinary investigations; accordingly, this research bridges a number of divides. At the theoretical level, I draw on work in linguistics, anthropology, legal theory, social theory, educational research, and psychology. In terms of methodology, this study unites interpretive, linguistic, and quantitative analyses to uncover overarching patterns in the classrooms as well as the nuanced meanings that animate those patterns. This chapter provides a brief overview of scholarship that has examined the role of language in society and culture, in socialization practices, and in education; it concludes with a discussion of the role of language in law, legal reasoning, and legal education. The resulting synthesis of