Faculty members in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) have released new books that investigate the intricacies and influences of language.
Professor Philipp Angermeyer uncovers the biases and disadvantages facing non-English speakers in New York City’s small claims courts. In his new book, Speak English or What? Codeswitching and Interpreter Use in New York City Courts, Angermeyer focuses on the litigants who speak Haitian Creole, Polish, Russian or Spanish and the judges and court interpreters with which they interact.
“My book investigates the impact of linguistic diversity on justice: does a person who does not speak the language of the court fluently receive a fair trial?” he said.
Drawing from over 200 court proceedings in three court houses and transcripts from over 40 transcribed audio recordings, he explores how the litigants use their limited proficiency of English and court interpreters to navigate the legal system.
“Previous research had been based on the assumption that a competent interpreter is able to put a non-English speaker into the same position as an English speaker,” he said. “My book challenges this view. My study shows that interpreting changes the way that people communicate, in a way that makes it more difficult for those who speak another language to make themselves heard and understood. It argues against the implicit ‘all-or-nothing’ rule of court interpreting, which forces participants to either speak only English or to use an interpreter exclusively.”
In Professor Susan Ehrlich’s new book, Discursive Constructions of Consent in the Legal Process, Ehrlich and her co-editors, Professor Diana Eades from the University of New England (Australia) and Professor Janet Ainsworth from Seattle University, showcase the ways in which linguistic perspectives and methodologies can illuminate inadequacies in how consent is understood within the legal system.
“This edited collection provides a linguistically grounded, critical examination of consent in the legal system,” said Erlich. “Based on empirical evidence from a wide variety of legal settings – such as abduction and rape cases, contract law, police interrogations, small claims courts, restorative justice systems – the book highlights the ways in which legal consent is often fictional, at best, due to the impoverished view of meaning and the linguistic ideologies that typically inform interpretations in the legal system.”
The book’s authors – experts in linguistics and the law – examine the complex ways in which language is used to negotiate, give or withhold consent in a wide variety of legal contexts, including interactions with police.
“Consent figures prominently in the legal system and language often plays a central role in its negotiation,” said Ehrlich. “Nonetheless, this is the first book to systematically investigate the linguistic and discursive dimensions of consent in the disparate legal settings in which it is relevant.”
Professor James A. Walker advocates the sociolinguist’s view in his new book, Canadian English: A Sociolinguistic Perspective. He combines the societal study of language with variation and change in language use, and he highlights the different ways in which sociolinguists collect and analyze data.
Most of the books on Canadian English are either long out of print or are intended as exhaustive reviews of the literature for academics, said Walker.
“This book highlights the study of Canadian English as a dynamic field and takes into consideration not only traditional approaches to and varieties of English in Canada, but also the changing nature of English-speaking Canada as we enter the 21st century,” he said.
In addition to analyzing the ongoing evolution of Canadian English, he delves into other current issues, such as the formation of new dialects and the link between language and social identity.
“This book is primarily intended as a textbook for use in undergraduate courses of different levels,” said Walker, “but the inclusion of background chapters on general linguistics and sociolinguistics means that anyone with an interest in Canadian English should be able to benefit from reading the book.”
Professor Emiro Martínez-Osorio weaves a narrative of conquest and poetry in his book Authority, Piracy, and Captivity in Colonial Spanish American Writing: Juan de Castellanos’s Elegies of Illustrious Men of the Indies.
“My book examines the intersection between social class, literary taste and political dissent in a series of epic poems about the exploration and colonization of America in the 16th century,” Martínez-Osorio said.
He focusses on the practice of poetic imitation, as well as themes of authority, piracy and captivity. He analyzes the transformation of heroic poetry due to the European encounter with America. The book illustrates how learned heroic verse contributed to the rise of the Spanish-American literary tradition from as early as 1580.
“The book expands our understanding of the intricate and often fraught connection between poetry and history writing,” said Martínez-Osorio. “The book shows that Spanish imperial epic poetry was not a monolithic or univocal discourse, and that even on the side of the so-called ‘winners’ there was room for multiple, alternative and competing narratives that envisioned quite different colonial projects in the realms of Spanish monarchy.”