Just Words : Law, Language, And Power

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Overview


Is it "just words" when a lawyer cross-examines a rape victim in the hopes of getting her to admit an interest in her attacker? Is it "just words" when the Supreme Court hands down a decision or when business people draw up a contract? In tackling the question of how an abstract entity exerts concrete power, Just Words focuses on what has become the central issue in law and language research: what language reveals about the nature of legal power.

Conley and O'Barr show how the ...

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Overview


Is it "just words" when a lawyer cross-examines a rape victim in the hopes of getting her to admit an interest in her attacker? Is it "just words" when the Supreme Court hands down a decision or when business people draw up a contract? In tackling the question of how an abstract entity exerts concrete power, Just Words focuses on what has become the central issue in law and language research: what language reveals about the nature of legal power.

Conley and O'Barr show how the microdynamics of the legal process and the largest questions of justice can be fruitfully explored through the field of linguistics. Each chapter covers a language-based approach to a different area of the law, from the cross-examinations of victims and witnesses to the inequities of divorce mediation. Combining analysis of common legal events with a broad range of scholarship on language and law, Just Words seeks the reality of power in the everyday practice and application of the law. As the only study of its type, the book is the definitive treatment of the topic that will be welcomed by students and specialists alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The authors argue for the importance of studying the language-based details of daily legal practice, showing how the microdynamics of the legal process and broad questions of justice can be meaningfully explored through the field of linguistics. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Patricia Ewick
Patricia Ewick, Department of Sociology, Clark University

Just Words: Law, Language, and Power, by Conley and O'Barr, is a self-conscious exercise in translation. Troubled by both the impenetrability of most sociolinguistic research and its inattentiveness to matters beyond the logic and organization of discourse itself, Conley and O'Barr have written a book that maps the connection between what they call microdiscourse (or, talk) in legal settings and structural and cultural patterns of inequality. They do this in a language that is transparent and teacherly. Indeed, the entire organization of the book is intended (or so it would appear) to introduce to a relatively uninformed audience the basic conceptual and analytic tools of socio-linguistic research and its usefulness for understanding the persistence of inequality in the law.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226114880
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/20/2005
  • Series: Chicago Series in Law and Society
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


John M. Conley the is William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina Law School. William M. O'Barr is professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University where he also holds appointments in the Departments of English and Sociology. Their many works include Rules versus Relationships, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Table of Contents


Preface
Acknowledgments
Note on Transcript Conventions
1: The Politics of Law and the Science of Talk
2: The Revictimization of Rape Victims
3: The Language of Mediation
4: Speaking of Patriarchy
5: A Natural History of Disputing
6: The Discourses of Law In Cross-Cultural Perspective
7: The Discourses of Law in Historical Perspective
8: Conclusion
Notes
References
Index
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