ILLA Language and Law Talks is an initiative aiming to provide a platform for interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of language and law. It seeks to promote a meaningful dialogue between experienced academics and young researchers, and to advance the cross-fertilization of legal and linguistic scholarship. Designed as interactive online events, the talks create an opportunity for the participants to share their research findings, to engage in stimulating discussions, and to connect with other colleagues interested in the study of language and law.


Talk 3

18 May (Wednesday), 4–5.15 PM (CEST)

The event will be held via Zoom and the meeting link will be sent out to those who register by sending an email to: languageandlawtalks[at] by 17 May 2022.


Speaker: Laurence R. Horn (Yale University)

Abstract: After 2000 years of exploration, the land between the truth and the lie remains imperfectly mapped. Among cartographers of this legally complex and ethically dubious domain there is widespread recognition of the importance of bluffing but no unanimity concerning its nature. Standard treatments of the relationship between bluffing and lying by scholars of business ethics and law, while addressing a range of subtle yet significant distinctions in the criteria for lying and misleading, provide no definitive take on what it is to bluff. I will seek to address this gap, exploring along the way the relation of bluffing to deception, puffery, fraud, bullshit, false implicature, and the "literal truth defense". 

For the Oxford English Dictionary, to bluff is "to assume a bold, big, or boastful demeanour, in order to inspire an opponent with an exaggerated notion of one’s strength, determination to fight, etc." The bluffer feigns strength, knowledge, or invulnerability to intimidate an adversary at the card table, in the boardroom or courtroom, on the battlefield or political arena, or in the used car lot. To bluff weakness is a robust strategy as well, however, as any serious poker player knows. Indeed, pretenses of both strength and weakness are familiar devices within the animal kingdom (bluffing as "dishonest signaling"), operating well outside the purview of business and law.  

What distinguishes bluffing from other varieties of misdirection is the bluffer’s vulnerability to being called; when challenged—"called"— a bluff collapses. But the would-be bluffee in the courtroom, in the negotiating room, on the campaign trail, in the wild, is equally vulnerable, since an apparent bluff may conceal actual knowledge or power. Damage to victims of a successful bluff, or to those lured into injudiciously calling a non-bluff, ranges from an unsatisfactory settlement or wrongful conviction/acquittal to bankruptcy, military defeat, or death.  

This investigation into the character of the ubiquitous practice of bluffing and its consequences is part of a larger project, the taxonomy of ways employed by humans to almost but not quite lie. While lying is always an intentional act, a speaker may mislead either with or without intent. This prompts a modest proposal for carving out a domain of DISLEADING, the act of intentionally misleading, based on the distinction between misinformation and disinformation.

Author bio:

Laurence R. Horn received his PhD from UCLA in 1972. His dissertation, On the semantic properties of logical operators in English, introduced scalar implicature. Since then, he has sought to extend the Gricean program for non-logical inference to a class of problems in the union (if not intersection) of logical and lexical semantics and the analysis of negation. Since 1981 he has been at Yale U where he is now Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Philosophy; he previously taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Wisconsin-Madison, and Aix-Marseille; at LSA Institutes at Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, Illinois, and Michigan State U; and at the LOT summer school at Utrecht. He is the author of A natural history of negation (Chicago, 1989; reissued with new introduction by CSLI, 2001) and of over 100 papers and handbook entries on negation, polarity, implicature, presupposition, grammatical variation, word meaning, lexicography, and lying. He edited The Expression of Negation (de Gruyter, 2010) and is a co-editor with Y. Kato of Negation and Polarity (Oxford, 2000), with G. Ward of The Handbook of Pragmatics (Blackwell-Wiley, 2004), with I. Kecskes of Explorations in Pragmatics (de Gruyter, 2007), with R. Zanuttini of Micro-Syntactic Variation in North American English (OUP, 2010), and with K. Turner of Pragmatics, Truth and Underspecification (Brill, 2018). With Raffaella Zanuttini and Jim Wood, he is a charter member of the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project ( He was editor of the Garland/Routledge series of Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics (1995-2005). A longtime member of the LSA and the American Dialect Society, he is an elected fellow of the LSA and served on the Executive Committee and chair of the Program Committee. An autoportrait of his career can be found in the 2018 volume of the Annual Review of Linguistics (


Talk 2

27 April (Wednesday), 4–5.15 PM (CEST)

The event will be held via MS Teams and the meeting link will be sent out to those who register by sending an email to: languageandlawtalks[at] by 26 April 2022.

Title: Practicing Linguistics Without a License: Multimodal Oratory in Legal Ritual

Speakers: Gregory Matoesian (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Kristin Enola Gilbert (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Abstract: Researchers in language and law or what is now referred to as forensic linguistics rarely, if ever, mention the role of multimodal conduct in legal settings such as trials, plea bargains, police training evaluations and so on. By the same token, despite the proliferation of gesture studies over the past several decades, researchers rarely, if ever, mention their role in the legal institution.  Our work demonstrates in concrete detail the role of multimodal conduct in the law, and how both gesture studies and forensic linguistics may benefit by looking at multimodal conduct in legal settings. Our talk here today will cover our recent publication from Cambridge University Press, Multimodal Conduct in the Law, as well as the even more recent Multimodal Performance and Interaction in Focus Groups (John Benjamins) and our work in progress tentatively titled (in honor of Michael Silverstein) "Practicing Linguistics Without a License: Multimodal Oratory in Legal Ritual."

Author bios:

Gregory Matoesian is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is author of Reproducing Rape: Domination through Talk in the Courtroom (1993, University of Chicago Press), Law and the Language of Identity (2001, Oxford University Press), co-editor (with Elizabeth Mertz and William Ford) of Translating the Social World for Law (2016, Oxford University Press), co-author (with Kristin Gilbert) of Multimodal Conduct in the Law: Language, Gesture and Materiality in Legal Interaction (2018, Cambridge University Press) and co-author (with Kristin Gilbert) of Multimodal Performance and Interaction in Focus Groups (2021, John Benjamins). He has published numerous articles in peer reviewed linguistic and law and society journals. Sir Anthony Giddens wrote of his first book: "it’s really brilliant". "It’s certainly the best attempt that I know of to actually discuss the reproduction of systems of domination in situ." In a review of his second book in the American Journal of Sociology Michael Silverstein noted that it is "an excellent book" and refers to Matoesian as "an astute interactional connoisseur and critic." Susan Hirsch wrote that his second book "is at the cutting edge of contemporary sociolinguistic theory and reflects a very high level of scholarship."

Kristin Enola Gilbert received her Ph.D. from the Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her current work focuses on language and multimodal conduct in focus group evaluations of community policing training. She is co-author (with Gregory Matoesian) of Multimodal Conduct in the Law (2018, Cambridge University Press), co-author (with Gregory Matoesian) of Multimodal Performance and Interaction in Focus Groups (2021, John Benjamins) and has published peer-reviewed articles in Gesture, Multimodal Communication, Narrative Inquiry, and Discourse and Communication. She studied gesture with Susan Goldin-Meadow at the University of Chicago and Susan Goldin-Meadow, Charles Briggs, Michelle Koven, and Richard Cameron were her dissertation committee members. Chair was Matoesian.


Talk 1

23 March (Wednesday), 4–5 pm (CET)

The event will be held via MS Teams and the meeting link will be sent out to those who register by sending an email to: languageandlawtalks[at] by 21 March.

Title: Deceptive implicatures in the courtroom

Speaker: Izabela Skoczeń (Jagiellonian University)

Abstract: This talk investigates with empirical studies whether there is a difference between the folk concept of a lie and a perjurious statement (roughly a willful lie during court proceedings). Classical philosophical theories usually define a lie in a standard, seemingly cooperative conversation. This talk investigates a different context of mistrust, namely the courtroom context. Previous studies (for example Skoczeń, 2021) showed that lying judgments in a courtroom are inconsistent - in uncertainty contexts, participants judge a false implicature a lie irrespective of whether the speaker had the intention to lie. However, the vignettes and questions used the ordinary language term "lie", rather than the technical term "perjury", which could suggest that only moral rather than legal responsibility of the speaker is at stake. This issue is important because in the lay juries system the results might hint toward an over-extensive criminalization of false statements in the courtroom. In order to verify whether it is the case, the present vignettes will use both the terms lie and perjury interchangeably, to check whether perjury ascriptions are equally inconsistent as lying ascriptions. Finally, perjury is defined as a willful lie which concerns only the material facts of the case. Material facts are facts relevant to the court’s decision. The talk will investigate whether immaterial lies can unjustifiably affect folk ascriptions of responsibility of the ‘immaterial’ liar.

Author bio: Izabela is a senior lecturer at the Chair of Legal Theory, Faculty of Law and Administration, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. She has collaborated with Dr. Benedikt Pirker on an experimental project on treaty interpretation (IntLLex). She is a member of the Guilty Minds Lab at the University of Zurich and the Jagiellonian Centre for Law, Language and Philosophy in Kraków. She specializes in experimental studies of language, morality and law. She applies the methodology of cognitive science to shed new light in jurisprudential debates. She published a number of articles in international journals as well as a book "Implicatures within Legal Language" (2019). Her research focuses on inferences in uncertainty contexts.