Language in legal contexts: The 'why' question


  • John Gibbons Sydney University



sociolinguistics, language behaviour, legal language


It may be useful to indicate briefly the manner in which this particular conference helped to shape the nature of these papers, and the particular underlying issue that they all, in very different ways, address. Many years ago, Fishman (1965) asked the fundamental question that still underpins much work in macro-sociolinguistics and in style and register analysis: 'who speaks what language to whom, and when?' But this leaves unasked, and therefore unanswered, the critical question 'why?' The reasons and motives for language behaviour, and the factors which cause language in legal contexts to differ from everyday conversational language, can largely be found in attitudes, beliefs, ideologies, and in culture in general. The papers collected here look at language in a wide range of legal contexts, but all of them examine the world view and patterns of thought that lie behind the language.

Author Biography

  • John Gibbons, Sydney University
    JOHN GIBBONS is a Senior Lecturer in the Linguistics Department at Sydney University, where he mostly teaches Applied Linguistics. Major interests are language and the law and bilingualism, and the intersection of these in language and disadvantage. He is editor of Language and the Law (1994), has published a number of articles on Forensic Linguistics, and regularly appears in court as an expert witness.






How to Cite

Gibbons, J. (1995). Language in legal contexts: The ’why’ question. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 2(1), 39-41.