What is it about?

Sometime a person on the witness stand in a Jamaican courtroom is asked about information related to time e.g. what was the sequence of events, what was the duration of a crime etc. Jamaican Creole and English have different grammatical means of expressing time. I investigate how judges interpret the time information in these testimonies.

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Why is it important?

It is reasonable to suspect that instances of miscommunication might occur inside a Jamaican courtroom given the two languages operating there--English is the language of the courts, but many of the defendants use Jamaican Creole. This article pinpoints a specific area of miscommunication and outlines how and where it might occur in courtroom proceedings.


I encountered a few cases of misinterpretation on the part of the judges as it relates to time information, but none so egregious that it would count as a gross miscarriage of justice (thankfully, there were other pieces of forensic evidence so the decision wasn't based solely on testimony). If and when time miscommunication occurs that could affect the course of justice, this research presents a template to locate where the miscommunication occurs and potentially correct it.

Dr. Clive Forrester
University of Waterloo

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Converting time reference in judges’ summations: a study in time reference management in a Creole continuum courtroom, International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, February 2015, Equinox Publishing,
DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v21i2.225.
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