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Cognitive Linguistics
in the Year 2024

Cognitive Linguistics and the Law

Sylwia Wojtczak (University of Lodz, Poland)
Iwona Witczak-Plisiecka (University of Lodz, Poland)
Mateusz Zeifert (University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland)

The intricate relationship between law and language is undeniable. Law has a linguistic nature. Legal norms are expressed in language. Legal operations, such as drafting and interpreting laws, often require linguistic considerations par excellence. Despite this fact, legal scholars have long ignored linguistics and have barely noticed the significant transformations witnessed by the discipline since the late 1970s and the birth of Cognitive Linguistics. Remaining true to the old tradition, they would rather seek inspiration and guidance from the analytic philosophy of language and formal logic. However, in recent years, ideas from Cognitive Linguistics have started to penetrate the field of legal theory. Authors such as Lawrence Solan, Peter Tiersma, Steven Winter, Łucja Biel, Sylwia Wojtczak and many others have successfully probed the usefulness of selected theories from Cognitive Linguistics in legal contexts. The prototype theory, the conceptual metaphor theory and the notion of Idealised Cognitive Models, among other things, have opened novel and fascinating possibilities for investigating relations between law, language and cognition.

The theme of the session is defined very broadly, as no topic at the intersection of Cognitive Linguistics and law has yet been fully explored. Despite the recent increase in interest in Cognitive Linguistics among legal scholars, there is still room for countless new applications. Numerous authors and theories from Cognitive Linguistics have not even been discussed in the legal context so far. The theme of this session will provide a unique platform to exchange ideas on how they can further enhance our understanding of the linguistic nature of law. This may include, but is not limited to, topics such as:

  • the normativity of law: delving into how cognitive mechanisms shape our understanding and means of expressing legal norms and obligations;
  • semantic motivation: discussing how the form of legal texts is influenced by cognitive structures and how this affects legal interpretation;
  • legal argumentation: examining how lawyers and judges construct arguments using cognitive frames and metaphors;
  • legal translation: addressing the cognitive challenges faced by translators when conveying legal concepts across language barriers;
  • plain legal language: exploring strategies for simplifying legal language without losing its precision, guided by Cognitive Linguistics principles and tools.

Within these and other topics, the presentation of case studies can be particularly valuable. Focusing on case studies where Cognitive Linguistics has played a role in making actual judicial decisions can underscore the practical significance of the field. These discussions could reveal how linguistic subtleties can influence legal outcomes and highlight the importance of linguistic expertise in legal matters.

The aim of the organisers is to create a truly interdisciplinary environment in which various theoretical perspectives can meet. Therefore, linguists, legal scholars and philosophers of language are all invited to make submissions. By casting a wide net and inviting a diverse group of participants, the session ensures a rich exchange of ideas. It encourages submissions that may introduce novel Cognitive Linguistics applications to legal studies, propose methodological innovations or offer a critique of established approaches.