Defamation as a Language Crime: A Sociopragmatic Approach to Defamation Cases in the High Courts of Justice of Spain

Victoria Guillén Nieto

Abstract


The investigation of language crimes is one of the expert areas of forensic linguistics as a forensic science that analyses language as evidence. This paper focuses on a particular type of language crime: defamation. This is an offence perpetrated, primarily, with malicious language—either written language (libel), spoken language (slander), or technospeech (Garfield, 2011: 17)—that involves social emotions and intentional false communication and harms a person’s dignity, prestige, and reputation in the social community. Since the 1980s, linguists have tried to shed light on defamation as a language crime from various linguistic theories such as speech act theory, semantics, discourse analysis, and pragmatics, as shown in works by Durant (1996: 195–210), Hancher (1980: 245–256), Kniffka (2007: 113–148), Shuy (2010) and Tiersma (1987: 303–350). In this paper, we take a different path in suggesting a sociopragmatics-based approach to the analysis of defamation, with special reference to impoliteness (Culpeper, 2011; Spencer-Oatey, 2005: 95–119). The questions we discuss are: (1) Is the theory of impoliteness appropriate for evidencing actionable offence in cases involving defamation? (2) How do the High Courts of Justice of Spain appraise defamatory meaning? (3) Does conventionalised formulaic impoliteness promote guilty verdicts? And (4) Does non-conventionalised impoliteness support acquittals? This piece of research is grounded in empirical data, particularly in a corpus of 150 judgments for cases of defamation given by the High Courts of Justice of Spain between 2013 and 2017.

Cite as: Guillén Nieto, JLL 9 (2020), 1–22, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2020.001


Keywords


forensic linguistics, High Courts of Justice of Spain, impoliteness, language as evidence, language crimes

Full Text:

PDF

References


Ardia, D. S. (2013). Freedom of speech, defamation, and injunctions. William & Mary Law Review, 55(1), 1–84.

Austin, J. L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. London: Clarendon Press.

Bousfield, D. (2008). Impoliteness and Interaction. Philadelphia, Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/pbns.167.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. C. (1978). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Culpeper, J. (2011). Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511975752.

Dewaele, J. M. (2015). Culture and emotional language. In F. Sharifian (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture, 357–370. Oxford: Routledge.

Durant, A. (1996). Allusions and other innuendo meanings in libel actions: the value of semantic and pragmatic evidence. Forensic Linguistics, 3(2), 195–210. DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v3i2.195.

Eggington, W. G. (2008). Deception and fraud. In J. Gibbons & M. T. Turell (Eds.), Dimensions of Forensic Linguistics, 249–264. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/aals.5.17egg.

Foolen, A. (2016). Word valence and its effects. In U. M. Lüdtke (Ed.), Emotion in Language: Theory – Research – Application, 241–256. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/ceb.10.12foo.

Garfield, L. Y. (2011). The death of slander. Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, 35(1), 17–56. DOI: 10.7916/D8BZ6GPT.

Georgakopoulou, A. (2013). Narrative analysis and computer-mediated communication. In S. C. Herring, D. Stein, & T. Virtanen (Eds.), Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication, 695–715. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110214468.695.

Gibbons, J. & Turell, M. T. (Eds.) (2008). Dimensions of Forensic Linguistics. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/aals.5.

Gill, M. (2013). Authentication and Nigerian letters. In S. C. Herring, D. Stein, & T. Virtanen (Eds.), Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication, 411–436. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110214468.411.

Giltrow, J. (2013). Genre and computer-mediated communication. In S. C. Herring, D. Stein, & T. Virtanen (Eds.), Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication, 717–737. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110214468.717.

Giltrow, J. & Stein, D. (Eds.) (2017). The Pragmatic Turn in Law: Inference and Interpretation in Legal Discourse. Boston, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9781501504723.

Guillén Nieto, V. (2011). The linguist as expert witness in the community trademark courts. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 162, 63–83. DOI: 10.1075/itl.162.04gui.

Guillén Nieto, V. & Stein, D. (2019). Emotion, Sprache im Recht. Methodische Aspekte einer kontrastiven fachsprachlichen Analyse. In G. Rocco & E. Schafroth (Eds.), Methoden der vergleichenden Diskurslinguistik. Germanistisch-romanistische Beiträge zur Methodenreflexion und Forschungspraxis. Bern: Peter Lang.

Haidt, J. (2003). The moral emotions. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Sherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of Affective Sciences, 852–870. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haiman, F. (1970). Speech and Law in a Free Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1985). Language, Context, and Text: Aspects of Language in a Social-Semiotic Perspective. Victoria: Deakin University Press.

Hancher, M. (1980). Speech acts and the law. In R. W. Shuy & A. Schnukal (Eds.), Language Use and the Uses of Language, 245–256. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Hancock, J. & Gonzalez, A. (2013). Deception in computer-mediated communication. In S. C. Herring, D. Stein, & T. Virtanen (Eds.), Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication, 363–383. DOI: 10.1515/9783110214468.363.

Hareli, S. & Parkinson, B. (2008). What’s social about social emotions? Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 38(2), 131–156. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2008.00363.x.

Herring, S. C., Stein, D. & Virtanen, T. (Eds.) (2013). Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110214468.

Heyd, T. (2013). Email hoaxes. In S. C. Herring, D. Stein, & T. Virtanen (Eds.), Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication, 387–410. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110214468.387.

Kecskés, I. (2014). Intercultural Pragmatics. New York: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199892655.001.0001.

Kniffka, Hannes (2007). Working in Language and Law: A German Perspective. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: 10.1057/9780230590045.

Lakoff, Robin (1973). The logic of politeness: or, minding your p’s and q’s. In C. Corum, T. Cedric Smith-Stark & A. Weiser (Eds.), Papers from the Ninth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, April 13-15, 292–305. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society

Leech, G. N. (1983). Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.

Lidsky, L. B. (2000). Silencing John Doe: defamation & discourse in cyberspace. Duke Law Journal, 49(4), 855–946. DOI: 10.2307/1373038.

Lidsky, L. B. & Jones, R. A. (2016). Of reasonable readers and unreasonable speakers: libel law in a networked world. Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law, 155, 156–178. Retrieved from scholarship. law.ufl.edu/facultypub/755.

Muschalik, J. (2018): Threatening in English: A Mixed-Method Approach. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/pbns.284.

Phelps, R. H. & Hamilton, D. (1969). Libel: A Guide to Rights, Risks, Responsibilities. New York: Practising Law Institute.

Reeck, C., Ames, D., & Ochsner, K. N. (2016). The social regulation of emotion: an integrative, cross-disciplinary model. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(1): 47–63. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.09.003.

Sack, R. D. (1999). Sack on Defamation: Libel, Slander, and Related Problems. New York: Practicing Law Institute.

Searle, John (1969). Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: University Press.

Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D., & O’Connor, C. (1987). Emotion knowledge: further exploration of a prototype approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1061–1086. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.52.6.1061.

Shuy, R. W. (2010). The Language of Defamation Cases. Oxford: University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391329.001.0001.

Spencer-Oatey, H. D. M. (2005). (Im) politeness, face and perceptions of rapport: unpackaging their bases and interrelationships. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture, 1(1), 95–119. DOI: 10.1515/jplr.2005.1.1.95.

Spencer-Oatey, H. D. M. (2000). Culturally Speaking: Managing Rapport Through Talk Across Cultures. London, New York: Continuum.

Stollznow, K. (2017). The Language of Discrimination. Muenchen: LINCOM GmbH.

Thomson, G. & Alba-Juez, L. (Eds.) (2014). Evaluation in Context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/pbns.242.

Tiersma, Peter M. (1987). The language of defamation. Texas Law Review, 66(2), 303–350.

Watts, R. J. (2003). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511615184.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14762/jll.2020.001

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2020 Victoria Guillén Nieto

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.