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Robert Leonard, Hofstra University

Janet Ainsworth earned her J.D., cum laude, at Harvard Law School and currently holds the title of John D. Eshelman Professor of Law at Seattle University. Her scholarship has engaged a variety of issues, including the application of linguistics research to legal issues, criminal procedure, feminist critical theory, juvenile law, comparative law, imperial Chinese law, and law and social science. She is the author of numerous book chapters and articles appearing both in peer-reviewed social science journals and in law reviews including the Yale Law Journal, the Cornell Law Review, and the Washington University Law Quarterly. Professor Ainsworth has also served on the Executive Committee of the Criminal Justice Section and as chair of the Law and Anthropology Section of the AALS, has served on several committees of the Law and Society Association, as well as Vice President of the International Association for Forensic Linguists. Her pro bono activities include serving on the Board of Directors of the Seattle-King County Public Defender, writing amicus curiae briefs to the Washington State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court, lecturing at dozens of Continuing Legal Education seminars, serving as a member of numerous state criminal justice task forces, and serving as consultant to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, from which she received its Outstanding Service Award in recognition of her contributions.

Power and pragmatics in interactions with the police: A Berlitz guide to civilians for talking to cops


Many interactions between ordinary civilians and law enforcement officers involve questions being asked and answers being sought. Question and answer sequences are part of everyday life, and are governed by certain social norms and rules. While most people may not be consciously aware of them, we do apply certain conventions in how we ask questions and how we answer them. Unfortunately, the rules of engagement when we interact with police officers can have drastic consequences if we apply those ordinary rules of conversational interaction in those contexts. Two common examples are these: how do people respond when a police officer asks to search their property, and how do people respond when they are read their Miranda rights just before being interrogated by the police.  Those interactions, occurring in a backdrop of the power asymmetry between ordinary civilians and police officers, can result in attempts by people to exercise their constitutional rights being ignored. Courts, however, tend to interpret the words of police officers generously and the words of those they are questioning with hyper-formal strictness. As a result, important constitutional rights turn out to be perilously easy to waive and nearly impossible to successfully claim.

Elizabeth Hepford, Temple University

Judge Lynn W. Davis has served as a judge in Utah for 32 years and is the 5th longest seated judge in the history of the State of Utah. He was appointed to the Fourth Circuit Court in April 1987 and the Fourth District Court in June 1992 by Governor Norman H. Bangerter. He is the recipient of the Utah State Bar Distinguished Service Award and several other judicial awards, and has been a passionate advocate for equal access to the courts for Limited English Proficiency individuals and has published and lectured across the country on this subject. He was also part of the team that created the Code of Responsibility for Court Interpreters that has been adopted by every state. One of his published articles is also now mandatory reading for every new judge in America.

Due process for people with limited English proficiency


Constitutional law affords all defendants the right to represent themselves.  However, this is often difficult, if not impossible, for Limited English Proficiency individuals unless they are assisted by a highly qualified interpreter and by legal counsel who understand and appreciate the challenges. This presentation will focus on case law from across the country involving LEP proficiency issues at various stages of both civil and criminal litigation. Judge Davis will address the skills and qualifications that are needed by court interpreters, will add personal judicial observations and recommendations, and will also share insights from practicing court interpreters.


Bill Eggington, Brigham Young University

Dr. William G. Eggington, originally from Australia, is an applied sociolinguist with research interests in language planning and policy, intercultural rhetoric and forensic linguistics. His focus on the sociolinguistics of minority language speakers led to an interest in forensic linguistics. As such, he has consulted and testified as an expert witness in numerous criminal and civil legal cases involving forensic linguistics with an emphasis on minority language issues such as limited English speaker’s comprehension of legal rights and interrogation language, hate crime determination, trade mark dilution, contract language disputes, and authorial attribution. He is currently Ludwig, Weber, Siebach Humanities Professor, BYU College of Humanities. During the 2013-2014 academic year, he was a visiting scholar at Kyung Hee University, Global Campus, South Korea.

Dr. Eggington has written or co-edited six books and has produced numerous journal articles and book chapters in volumes published by Cambridge, Multilingual Matters, Addison Wesley, Holt Rinehart, Macmillan, H. Buske, Harvard Latino Law Review and various national and international university and professional association presses. From 2003 to 2006, he served as a member of the board of directors of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and chaired the TESOL 2005 conference in San Antonio, Texas with approximately 8,000 participants. Prior to coming to BYU in 1989, he taught applied linguistics at the Northern Territory University in Australia. He received his MA and PhD in Linguistics from the University of Southern California.


Prof. Eggington will recap the main points from each keynote address, identify common strands between them, relate these back to the theme of the conference, and restate how a knowledge of the scientific principles and empirical findings from the field of linguistics can help lawyers and judges improve their abilities to analyze and evaluate linguistic evidence, protect individuals’ rights, and allow individuals with limited English proficiency to participate more fully in the legal process.

Scott Jarvis

Scott Jarvis is Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Utah. His research concentrations include second language acquisition and forensic linguistics. His research focuses inter alia on detecting native language influence in nonnative speakers’ use of a second language, and the ways that speakers with limited English proficiency understand and misunderstand the Miranda Warning. His recent work appears in articles published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Language Learning, and Language Testing, as well as in collected volumes published by Cambridge University Press, Multilingual Matters, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Springer, and Wiley.


Prof. Jarvis will welcome the audience, introduce the theme of the symposium (i.e., what lawyers need to know about language and linguistics), introduce the speakers and their topics, and indicate how the keynote addresses relate to the theme of the symposium and how they tie into each other.

Aneta Pavlenko, Center for Multilingualism, University of Oslo

Roger W. Shuy holds the title of Distinguished Research Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, from Georgetown University, and is recognized as the world’s leading forensic linguist. After beginning his career as a linguistic geographer, he moved into the field of sociolinguistics and founded the sociolinguistics doctoral program  at Georgetown University, where he also served as a full professor of linguistics for 30 years and chaired the Department of Linguistics for several years. Since the 1980s, his work has been almost entirely on the interactions of language and law, which remains his primary concern to this day. He is the author of 43 published books and 208 articles, and has consulted on some 600 cases and testified as a linguistics expert witness 54 times in criminal and civil trials (in 26 states), as well as before the US Senate and US House of Representatives in impeachment trials of US Senators and Federal Judges and in International Criminal Tribunal trials. He has also provided sworn affidavits and depositions in some 75 law cases.


Going deeper than words


Most of the linguistic work on authorship analysis deals with small but important chunks of text such as words, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. These types of evidence generally suffice for their purposes, but there are also cases involving bribery, solicitation, fraud, and others that usually contain much larger amounts of language evidence. These types of evidence can be found in police interviews, courtroom examinations, and evidence gathered surreptitiously. In such cases, the analysis must deal with the way the smaller linguistic features fit into the overall context of the entire discourse in which they are found. 

Prof. Shuy’s approach to cases in which large amounts of evidence exist is to ask the following questions: What do the participants think they understand about what they are talking about? What schemas do they reveal? What topics do they bring up that reveal what they believe the conversation is about? How do their speech acts support this? What conversational strategies are used to advance the speakers’ conversational goals? And finally, how do the smaller smoking gun language features of lexicon and grammar (especially referencing) fit into the overall discourse? 

This presentation demonstrates this type of analysis. It calls on the analyst’s knowledge of speech events (borrowed from cultural anthropology), schema theory (borrowed from psychology), topic analysis (from discourse analysis), speech act theory (borrowed from philosophers of language), and conversational strategies (borrowed from rhetoric). The more familiar linguistic features of lexicon and grammar occur within this context and can best be understood by situating them in the larger discourse in which they occur.






Last Updated: 3/28/19