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LANGUAGE AND LAW 2

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  1. LANGUAGE AND LAW 2

  2. Don’t do it! • Threatsandwarningshave a greatdealincommon • They show differentaspectsofthelaw • Whileitisillegal (in some cases) to make threats, warnings are required for a numberofconsumerproducts

  3. Readthis! • Whilethelawmaypunishpeople for committingacts, itcanalsoholdthemaccountable for notdoingsomething • In thecaseof some dangers, thereis a legalduty to warnpeople (e.g. consumergoods) • Whilewarningscanbedeliveredusing a specificverb, such as „I warnyou” or „I adviseyou”, inthecaseofconsumerproductsthey are oftenincludedunderheadingslike ‘information’, ‘caution’ and ‘instructions’

  4. Warnings • Warningsneed to beclear • As theymayaddresslargeanddiverseaudiences, theyneed to bewrittensimply, inanaccessiblelanguageandstyle • Theyneed to beadequateintermsoftheinformationtheycommunicate

  5. Warnings • A warningis for thebenefitofthereceiver • As theaddresseemaycontroltheoutcome (whethersthbadhappensornot), s/he needs to knowwhatthedangerisand how to avoidit • Informingsomeoneof a riskshouldexplainwhyitis a risk

  6. Warningsshouldstate: • 1. whatthedangeris • 2. how to avoidit • 3. whyitshouldbeavoided • 4. what to do ifharmoccurs

  7. Activity • You buy a cupofcoffeefrom a take-awaycoffee shop. Whileyou are takingthelidoff to put sugarin, youspillthecoffeeoveryourstomach. You sufferthirddegreeburns; yourequireskingraftsandtwoweeksinhospital. • Whenyoucomplain to the shop, theypointout some text on the side oftheircupswhichreads ‘CAUTION: CONTENTS HOT!’. Isthisanadequatewarning?

  8. Activity • Theadequacycanbeassessedbypayingattention to thefourfeaturesofanadequatewarning • Thewarningdoesnotsaywhatthedangeris, nordoesitstate how to avoidtherisk, whyitshouldbeavoidedorwhat to do iftheunspecifiedriskisencountered • All fourcomponentsofthewarningneed to beinferred • Some oftheinferrences are straightforward, some lessso

  9. Activity • In termsofparadigmaticaxis: thewarningispresentednot as a ‘warning’ but as a ‘caution’; • a cautionislessforcefulthan a warning; nevertheless, itindicatesthatthereis some risk • Ifitis a warning, itispossible to inferthat ‘hot’ suggeststheriskofburningtheinsideofthemouth; a burntmouth – not a seriousrisk • Thedangerdepends on how ‘hot’ isunderstood • Paradigmaticaxis: ‘hot’ iswarmerthan ‘cool’, but lesswarnthan ‘veryhot’ or ‘boiling’ • In thelightofconsequences, thisisnotanadequatewarning • Iftheheatcancausethirddegreeburns, itis more than ‘hot’

  10. Activity • Thisexampleisbased on an American lawsuitagainst McDonald’s: • Liebeck v McDonalds, 2011 • Whilethecaseisoftenused to arguethattherehasbeenanincreaseinfrivolouslawsuits, theinformationaboutthedegreeofburnssufferedisnotusuallymentioned

  11. McDonaldcoffeewarning

  12. Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants (Hot Coffee Lawsuit) • On Feb.27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from New Mexico, ordered a cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald's restaurant. Shewas in the passenger's seat of her car, and her nephew Chris parked the car so that shecould add cream and sugar to her coffee. Sheplaced the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. Shewas wearing cotton sweatpants; they absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin. Shewas taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on 6% of her skin and lesser burns over 16%percent. She remained in the hospital for 8days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, shelost 9 kg, nearly 20% of her body weight, reducing her down to 38 kg. Two years of medical treatment followed.

  13. Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants (Hot Coffee Lawsuit) • A jury reached its verdict on Aug.18, 1994. Applying the principles of contributorynegligence, the jury found that McDonald's was 80% responsible for the incident and Liebeck was 20% at fault. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was neither large enough nor sufficient. They awarded Liebeck US$200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by 20% to $160,000. In addition, they awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The jurors apparently arrived at this figure from Morgan's suggestion to penalize McDonald's for one or two days' worth of coffee revenues, which were about $1.35 million per day. The judge reduced punitive damages to $480,000, three times the compensatory amount, for a total of $640,000. The decision was appealed by both McDonald's and Liebeck in December 1994, but the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000.

  14. 2 Activity • Findthepackaging for a medicine inyourhouse. Itdoesnotneed to besomethingthatisprescribed, a boxofpainkillerswill do. Seeifthere are anywarnings on theboxorinsidel • Rememberthatwarnings are sometimesincludedin ‘instructions’. Whatform do sentences take? Whatkindsofwords are used? Are thereanypicturesoricons?Whereisthetext? Isthewarningadequate?

  15. Warnings • If a warningiscontainedin a seriesof short bulletpoints, theorderprobablydoesnotmatterverymuch • But: some warnings are quitelong • In suchcases, theorderinwhichtheinformationisgivencanbecrucial for theadequacyofthewarning

  16. Example • (1) Strokescanoccur at any time. (2) Theycanbefatalifearlyinterventiondoesnot take place. (3) Ifyouexperienceanysymptomsof a stroke, youshouldimmediatelyseekmedicalassistance. (4) Thismedicationhas a newchemicalingredient. (5) Testsconductedsuggestthatthisingredientmaylead to bloodclotting.

  17. Activity • Isthis a goodwarning? Why (not)? • Isthere a betterwayoforderingthisinformation?

  18. Activity • Informationchunks – canbeclassifiedaccording to thefourfeaturesofanadequatewarning • Thiswillrevealwhetherinformationispresentedin a logicalorder • Itmakessense to betoldwhatthedangerisbeforebeingtold how to avoidit • A goodprincipleoftextualstructure – to place the most importantinformationnearthe start • Thishelps to make thelogicand argument ofthetextclearandinturnmakesthetext more comprehensible • A warningmaycontainallthenecessaryelements, but ifthey are notorderedin a logicalway, thetextwillprobablynotbeveryinformative

  19. Inferences • Inferencesneed to bemadewhentheconnectionbetweentwoinformationchunks, orthereason for thepresenceof a chunk, isnotclearorexplicit • Aninformativetextminimisesthenumberofinferences • Readershave to inferlesswheninformationislogicallystructured • For informativetexts, likewarnings, a logicalstructureis one thatprovides ‘given’ informationbefore ‘new’ information • ‘given’ informationissththatthereaderalreadyknows, eitherfromthetextthatcamebeforeorfromimmediatecontext

  20. Warnings • In warningstheassociationbetweenthedangerandtheactivityshouldbeeasy to access, thatis, itshouldbeeasy to infer

  21. Activity: key • Giventhatthewarninginourexampleis on a packetofmedication for hayfever, itisnotclearwhystrokes are mentioned at allin (1); • Sentence (4) wouldbe a better place to start, as itrelatesdirectlywiththeproduct at hand • The medicine is ‘given’, thereaderhasitinherhand, whilethe ‘new’ ingredient’ isnewinformation • Movingthechunksaroundsothatthe ‘new’ in one sentence canfunctioneasily as ‘given’ inthenextresultsinthefollowing:

  22. Example • (4) Thismedicationhas a newchemicalingredient. (5) Testsconductedsuggestthatthisingredientmaylead to bloodclotting. (5) (Strokescanoccur at any time. (2) Theycanbefatalifearlyinterventiondoesnot take place. (3) Ifyouexperienceanysymptomsof a stroke, youshouldimmediatelyseekmedicalassistance

  23. Summary • Informativetextsshouldbestructuredin a certainway • Theyshouldnotcausethereader to have to inferimportantinformation • There are fourelementsof a goodwarning; while some maybeeasy to inferfromthecontext, theyshouldalsobeeasilyaccessible to a wide rangeofreaders

  24. Activity • Look at thestatementsbelow. Who wouldsaythemandinwhatcontext? Do theyhaveanyconsequences? • A. I’mtellingyou, don’t do it! • B. Stop before it’s toolate! • C. I nowpronounceyoumanandwife • D. Itisthejudgmentofthiscourtthatthedefendent, John Smith, shallbeandherebyissentenced to a termofimprisonmentof 15 years. • E. Guilty.

  25. Key • A) thespeakerisnotjust ‘telling’ someonesth, sheisorderingoradvising • B)thespeakeriswarning, orperhapsthreatening, orevanpleading • C) solemnisingmarriaged • D) sentencing • E) verdict

  26. Comment • All theexamples do sth • They do sthifotherconditions are in place • Itmakes no sense to saythey are ‘true’ or ‘false’

  27. SpeechActTheory • „I want to discuss a kind of utterance which looks like a statement…and yet is not true or false…in the first person singular present indicative active…if a person makes an utterance of this sort we would say that he is doing something rather than merely saying something…When I say I do (take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife), I am not reporting on a marriage, I am indulging in it” (Austin1979: 235)

  28. SpeechActTheory • Movingawayfrom a viewoflanguagewhichprioritisestruthclaims, Austinrealisedthatunderstandinglanguageinvolves more thanassessingfactualevidenceorsyntacticacceptability • Importantinlegalcontext

  29. SpeechActTheoryinthelegalcontext • 1)helpsunderstandwhy some speechactshavelegaleffects • 2) importantinunderstandingwhy some speechacts are illegal

  30. Activity: Considerthefollowingexamples: • A) a police officerstops a persongoingintoher place ofwork, saying ‘Don’tgointhere’ • B) at a swimming lake, a park rangersays ‘I have to warnyouthatthe lake isveryshallowtoday; it’snot a goodidea to jumpoffthoserocks’. • C) A persongoesup to a banktellerandplaces a gun on thecountersaying ‘give me themoney’. • Describetheseutterances. What do they do?

  31. Key • In alltheexamples, thespokenwordshavebeenreportedbyusingtheverb ‘say’ • They are doing more thansimplysaying • A) order/warning: effect on theaddressee

  32. SpeechActs: examples • Explicitmarkingof a speechact – noticeableintheenactingformulae at thebeginningoflegislation(UK) • 1. Be itenactedbythe Queen ‘s most ExcellentMajesty, byandwiththeadviceandconsentoftheLordsSpiritualandTemporal, andCommons, inthispresentParliamentassembled, andbytheauthorityofthe same, as follows… • 2. I herebyswearthatthefollowingstatements are true.

  33. Identifyingspeechacts • Sometimesanexplicitperformativeisused, i.e. a verbwhichannouncestheactionthatisbeingundertaken (e.g. I warn you…) – direct speech acts • ‘The way how the utterance would be reported to someone else (She insulted me…) indirect speech acts • Hereby’ – common in performatives and indicate that a speech act is present (‘I hereby swear that the following statements are true’)

  34. SpeechActTheory • Itmakes no sense to sayspeechacts are ‘true’ or ‘false’ • J. Austindistinguishesbetweenconstatives (whichcanbetrueorfalse) andperformatives (whichcannot)

  35. Speechacts • Locutionary (=saying) • Illocutionary (saying = doing: e.g. promises, apologies, requests, orders) • Perlocutionary (resultoflocutionaryandillocutionaryacts; effect on theadressee: persuading, convincing, insulting, deceiving) • Perlocutionaryactentailsanillocutionaryact, andanillocutionaryactentails a locutionaryact • Noteverylocutionisanillocution

  36. Summary • Speechacts do thingswithwords • There are threedifferentkindsofspeechacts: locutionary, illocutionary, perlocutionary • Illocutionaryandperlocutionaryactscannotbetrueorfalse • Anillocutionaryspeechactmayormaynot use a performativeverb

  37. Felicityconditions • Whiledeclarativesmaybeassessed on thebasisofwhetherthey are trueorfalse, speechacts are assessed on thebasisof ‘felicityconditions’ • Austin’saccountoffelicityconditionsallowsconsiderationoftheconventionsinvolvedinillocutionaryacts (likemarriages), thekindofpeopleinvolved, theirintentionsandsubsequentconduct

  38. Speechacts: felicityconditions • A. (i) Conventions/proceduresinvolvedinillocutionaryacts (likemarriages) • (ii) Thepersonsandcircumstances must beappropriate for the procedure • B. The procedure must beexecutedbyallparticipantscorrectlyandcompletely • C. Intentionsandsubsequentconductofpersonsinvolved • If A-B are notmet, thespeechact ‘misfires’ • If C isnotmet, an ‘abuse’ ofthespeechacthastaken place

  39. Speechactsin a legalcontext • Veryformalillocutionaryactsgenerallystipulatewhocanperformtheact as well as settingouttheparticularformofwords to beused • For example, theConstitutionofthe USA providesthewording for thePresidentialoathofoffice: ‘I do solemnlyswear (oraffirm) thatI willfaithfullyexecutetheofficeofPresidentofthe United States, andwill to thebestofmyAbility, preserve, protectanddefendtheConstitutionofthe United States’ (Article 2, section 1)

  40. Example • Roberts: I, Barack Hussein Obama… • Obama: I, Barack… • Roberts: …do solemnlyswear… • Obama: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnlyswear… • Roberts: …that I will…executethe Office ofPresident to the United Statesfaithfully… • Obama: …that I willexecute…? • Roberts: …the Off…faithfullythePres…the Office ofPresidentofthe United States… • Obama: …the Office ofPresidentofthe United Statesfaithfully… • Roberts: …andwill to thebestofmyability… • Obama: …andwill to thebestofmyability… • Roberts: …preserve, protectanddefendtheConstitutionofthe United States. • Roberts: Sohelpyou God? • Obama: Sohelp me God. • Roberts: Congratulations, Mr. President. Verybestwishes (Obama, 2009)

  41. Comment • Becausetheswearingintoofficeissoimportant, and to ensurethatquestionswouldnotberaisedaboutthelegitimacyofthisspeechact, therewas a secondoathtakenthefollowingday (CNN Politics, 2009) • Therewas no questionabouttheintentionofthepartiesortheirsubsequentconduct

  42. Intentioninspeechacts • 1. Intention to commit a particularspeechact (e.g. intending to make a promise) • 2. Intention to do somethingoverandabovethespeechact (e.g. intending to honourthepromise) • BothfallunderAustin’s C condition: thepersonperformingthespeechact must ‘infact’ havethethoughtsandfeelingstheirspeechactindicatesand s/he must intend to conductherselfinthewayindicatedbythespeechact. Theproofof (2) iscapturedbyAustin’s C (i) iftheintentionis to do sthlikefrightenorpersuade, andin C (ii) ifparticularactionsneed to betaken

  43. Intentioninspeechacts • Manyspeechacts are conventional, a speakermightfollowthe procedure andyetarguethatshedidnothavetherequisiteintention • Austin’s model doesnot provide a wayofdeterminingifthespeakerinfacthasthenecessarythoughtsandfeelings • At the moment ofthespeechact, allthatcanberelied on are wordsusedandanythingthatcanbeobservedinthespeaker’s general conduct

  44. Activity: in UK law, Section 4 oftheOffencesAgainstthePersonAct 1861(as amendedbyCriminalLawAct 1977) reads as follows: • Whoevershallsolicit, encourage, persuadeorendeavour to persuade, orshallproposeanyperson to murderanyotherperson, whether he be a subjectofherMajestyornot, orwhether he bewithintheQueen’sDominion’sornot, shallbeguiltyof a misdemeanour, andbeingconvictedshallbeliable to imprisonment for life (OffencesAgainstthePersonAct 1861, s. 4).

  45. Example • In 2004, a satiricalmediacommentator, CharlieBrooker, wrote a piecein a newspapersupplementexpressingthehopethat a particular American presidentialcandidatewouldnotbeelected. Thefinal line ofthepiecenamed some infamousassassinsofformer American Presidentsconcluding, ‘where are younowthatweneedyou?’ (Steyn, 2004) • Wouldthisfallundersection 4? IsBrookerencouragingmurder?

  46. Example • Thenewspaperpublishedanapologynotingthat, ‘Althoughflippantandtasteless, hisclosingcommentswereintended as anironicjoke, not as a call to action – anintention he believedregularreadersofhishumorouscolumnwouldundertstand (Guardian, 2004) • Thelawdoesnotrequireanyone to beactuallypersuaded; itonlyrequiresthat a speakercanbeunderstood as trying to persuade • Persuation – a perlocutionaryact, sthwhichisnotconventionallydone • Whileitmaybepossible to empiricallytest whethersomeonewaspersuaded, arguingthatpersuasionwasintendedis more difficult

  47. Summary • For a speechact to befelicitous, certainconditionsneed to bemet • Ifconventions are clear, itmaybeeasy to assesswhether a speechactisfelicitous • Intentionisproblematicifdefinedinrelation to thespeaker’srealstateofmind

  48. A promiseor a threat? • Threatsandwarnings – similarinmanyrespects • Both are related to promises as theyrelate to future actions • Threatsandpromisesindicatesthaboutthe future intentionsofthespeaker

  49. Thteatsandwarnings: similaritiesanddifferences

  50. Threatsandwarnings • Boththreatsandwarnings – related to promisesandoriented to future actions • Warnings – to theaddressee’sbenefit • Threats – thetheaddressee’sdetriment