Mock Trial

Workshop: A Mock Trial Experience for Student Expert-Linguists: The Case of “Negrito”

Presenters: Gerald McMenamin, Joshua Breen, Carolina Juárez, Ashley Keaton, Jared Mora, Josué Nieves, Annette Tan University of Nevada, Reno

What to Expect

In this 90-minute workshop, the presenters will review their production of a mock trial designed to give students experience as expert witnesses in linguistics. Students will explain the issue, introduce relevant linguistic concepts, and then ‘relive’ the experience of testifying by showing a sample of their own testimony from the video recording of the trial.

THE ISSUE: The plaintiff-employee is black and from Africa and alleges that his Mexican American co-workers used the derogatory Spanish-language nickname negrito to address and refer to him, thereby creating a discriminatory and racially hostile work environment. The defendant/employer denies the alleged discrimination and harassment, contending that the use of negrito was not derogatory, and that the intent of Plaintiff’s co-workers was to create an informal and friendly environment that would make him feel close to and included in their work-group.

THE TESTIMONY: Expert witnesses present the issues: language form vs.function, pragmatics and intercultural pragmatics, pragmatic failure, language accommodation, the form and function of the noun negrito, and the use of apodos (nicknames) in Latino culture. 

THE CROSS-EXAMINATION: Whose pragmatic failure is it? What is the role of speaker-intention? Are apodos inappropriate for the U.S.? What is the role of listener-interpretation? Who should do the accommodating?

THE VERDICT?  Join us to find out!

The goal of the mock trial is to encourage student interest in insider work (participation in actual legal cases, as advocated by Roger Shuy, GURT 2000) which, as Shuy remarks, may not be as comfortable as the outsider work of the typical academic linguist.

Time and Location

Friday, March 29, 11:15 – 12:45, ICC auditorium