This article examines courtroom discourse in China in terms of its three components: the contextual, the interactional, and the propositional. After briefly introducing the Chinese legal culture and system, it considers courtroom questioning and interaction patterns as well as a courtroom judgment. For the analysis of the interactional component, the article uses the transcription of a criminal trial involving a charge of destruction of private property. The data for the analysis of the propositional component is a judgment from a lower court in Shanghai. Courtroom discourse in the article means criminal courtroom discourse, rather than courtroom discourse in general. Fa and Li are two core concepts in traditional Chinese legal culture, and represent the debate between the doctrines of Legalism and Confucianism. The article also introduces some of the key points about judicial proceedings in China, along with courtroom judgment (sentencing).
Mami Hiraike Okawara
The implementation of the saiban-in (lay judge) system in 2009 has opened the way, not only to lay participation, but also to some participation by linguists in Japanese courtrooms. This article, which explores how differences between lay and professional views are mingled in the judicial deliberations, first explains the saiban-in (lay judge) system and then introduces some studies of court proceedings in Japan. It also examines how the intent to murder is determined in Japanese courts, and, finally, focuses on a discourse connective and analyzes the discussion on the degrees of murder during the deliberation stage in a mock trial. The article shows that lay people do not understand an important legal concept – mihitsu no koi – which means ‘willful negligence’. Furthermore, in determining a defendant's state of mind, lay people tend to look for motives, while the legal system asks them to examine circumstantial evidence instead. The result is a complicated negotiation between the professional and lay judges in which the professional judges play more of a role of educator than of an equal colleague.
Tunde Olusola Opeibi
The situation in most parts of Africa supports scholars' argument that for any group of people to share a sense of common identity, a certain minimum level of communication between them must be guaranteed. And the incontrovertible evidence shows that language has remained one of the most visible and enduring senses of that shared identity. In Africa, evidence shows that language has become a very strong factor for ethno-national identity, with the ethnic loyalty overriding the national interest. Previous scholarly contributions on the complex linguistic situation in Africa have discussed strategies adopted in language planning and types of language policies in many of the nations in Africa. Drawing on these contributions, as well as incorporating recent developments, this article uses a sociolinguistic perspective to discuss aspects of language policies in Africa and how these policies reflect the language situation there. After providing an overview of the linguistic landscape of Africa, it examines language as power, language planning, language policy, and nation building, as well as legal language.
Martha L. Komter and Marijke Malsch
This article discusses the role of language in inquisitorial systems, also known as civil law systems. It focuses on the highly professionalized inquisitorial criminal justice system in the Netherlands, where the dependence on documentary evidence is noticeable the moment one enters a Dutch courthouse. Ushers can be seen pushing trolleys stacked with files and papers, on their way to the courtroom or to the archives. The prominent role of the case file is also evident inside the courtrooms, not only as a central source of information around which the events are organized, but also as material presence. The discussion starts by considering how adversarial systems differ from inquisitorial criminal justice systems, and then describes some typical features of Dutch criminal trials, positioning these in relation to adversarial and other inquisitorial criminal justice systems. It concludes by discussing the language of Dutch criminal trials focused on the central position of the case file for the activities of the judges.