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Language and Law Colloquium (Forensic Linguistics)

Date: 09 October 2019 14:29 - 10 October 2019 17:00
Location: School of Languages and Literatures, Rhodes University, Somerset Street
Organiser: Hannelie Rielly (Phone 046 603 8222)
Event Type: Conference

The colloquium is aimed at providing academic scholars, legal practitioners and postgraduate students a space to have meaningful discussion and debate on the current status of our eleven official languages in the South African legal system. In addition, this year the organisers aim to highlight ‘new courtroom languages’ and ‘new forms of evidence’ in the form of emojis and voice identification techniques in criminal cases. The colloquium organisers encourage presenters and participants to highlight the current issues plaguing the legal system with reference to the use and development of language in the courts and legal system more broadly. Furthermore, to not only critique, but to provide practical solutions that can be put forward as solutions to the current linguistic marginalisation being experienced in the legal system. This colloquium will support the African Language Studies Honours module that is being offered at Rhodes: language and law / forensic linguistics.

The theme ‘NEW COURTROOM LANGUAGES’ concerns the international development of emojis and other forms of communication and language analysis that is being used as a evidence in court cases. The admissibility of these forms of evidence highlights the important role of forensic linguists in the legal system. The interpretation of emojis is contextually, culturally, racially and linguistically interpreted and in a multilingual and culturally diverse country such as South Africa this can be contentious and open to varying interpretations.

Voice identification techniques in the South African context will also prove to be difficult where accent is again associated with race, language and culture. The aim of the colloquium is to alert our judiciary to the new forensic linguistic developments that are taking place affecting the legal system. The theme takes into account the transformative and technological space we currently find ourselves in, positioning language as part of this evolving process as is seen with the case of State v Omotoso and the Zondo Commission of Inquiry (State Capture Commission), where language has played an important role.

As part of the colloquium a book launch will take place on 10 October 2019 where the following book will be launched: New Frontiers in Forensic Linguistics: Themes and Perspectives in Language and the Law by Monwabisi K Ralarala, Russell H Kaschula & Georgina Heydon (eds), African Sun Media. 2019. As part of the book launch a panel will discuss the contents of the book and the how this development is a first in South African and develops Forensic linguistics on the African continent more broadly. The panel will comprise of: editors Ralarala and Kaschula; selected contributing authors, legal practitioners and academics.

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