The Applicability of Movies in Legal Language Teaching: Evidence from Multi-Dimensional Analysis

Pierfranca Forchini

Abstract


The aim of the paper is to examine courtroom discourse by comparing naturally-occurring trials to movie trials in order to determine whether such movies can be used in the teaching of Legal English. For the purpose, data are retrieved from the American Movie-Trial Corpus and the American Real-Trial Corpus (built for the present analysis), and are compared via corpus-driven criteria and Biber’s Multi-Dimensional Analysis. The findings show very little linguistic and textual variability in the two investigated domains and thus confirm that the linguistic similarity of movie and naturally-occurring conversation is also present at a more specialized level. Hence, the claim that it is beyond dispute that the cinematic portrayal of the American legal system is far removed from legal reality is confuted and it is, consequently, suggested that movie language could be used as a remarkable source for learning not only the general usage of face-to-face conversation, as recently documented, but also the more specialized features of courtroom discourse. The findings also add value both to the role of corpora in teaching, which is often emphasized by numerous authoritative linguists, and to their methodological value in legal language research.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v10i6.14133

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