How just is justice? Law, Meet Linguistics

The Linguistics & Law Lab is working at the border between law and linguistics to improve justice through linguistic research.

We are exploring topics such as:
        –  What makes legal language so difficult?
        –  Would simplifying it lead to more just outcomes?

Using tools from linguistics, our goal is to make legal language accessible — to all people, including non-native English speakers and speakers of non-standard dialects.

Currently, our team of students from many majors are investigating the general public’s comprehension of jury instructions.  Our studies have revealed several linguistic factors that affect understanding.  By minimizing these factors, we have found that we can make jury instructions much more comprehensible than current versions. 

Our 2017 joint conference with the NU Law School, The Syntax of Justice: Law, Language, Access & Exclusion, brought together linguists and legal professionals to discuss (1) how language can lead to injustice across many legal arenas and (2) how we can work together to pursue change.