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COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE AND SECOND LANGUAGE ABILITIES IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM: A FORENSIC LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF A CHINESE IMMIGRANT'S RUN-IN WITH THE LAW [electronic resource]

by Beckman, Kristina.

Abstract (Summary)
Language ability can be a determining factor in deciding a defendant's legal guilt or innocence. This was the case for Chinese immigrant, LK, a licensed gun dealer who was criminally charged with selling weapons to ineligible buyers. In his defense, LK claimed that, as an English language learner, he did not possess the sufficient language skills required to adequately complete the complex administrative forms that accompany gun purchases. This study explores whether the defendant's English language abilities were sufficient to understand the government's requisite weapon sales report forms.Data collection comes from three sources: audio body bug (wiretap) tapes, written court transcripts, and the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' sales transaction forms. Using these sources as a basis for analysis, this study examines key linguistic features of the defendant's speech to evaluate his English language proficiency. Additionally, the language used by the defendant will be compared with the language found in the weapons purchase application report.Drawing upon theories on communicative competence (Bachman, 1990; Bachman& Palmer, 1996; Canale& Swain, 1980; Canale, 1983; Savignon, 1997), LK's functional, linguistic, discourse, sociolinguistic, and strategic competencies will first be evaluated. The second phase of the analysis uses the insight gained from examining LK's competencies in order to determine his level of proficiency. The Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (1996, SPEAK?) test and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Proficiency Guidelines (2000) will be used. The third stage of the analysis turns to readability studies in order to determine the level of difficulty in the ATF form. Chall et al.'s (1996) rubric and Flesch's readability formula (1946, 1949, 1972, 1979) serve as the foundation for the readability assessment. And last, additional areas for a forensic linguistic investigation into this case are considered. These include thematic (topical) tracking, sociolinguistic practices, and speech accommodation.This research serves those interested in second language issues as well as members of the judicial system. It builds on and supports other work in linguistics, language acquisition, sociolinguistcs, as well as the more specialized field of forensic linguistics.
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School:The University of Arizona

School Location:USA - Arizona

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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