John D. Eshelman Professor of Law
Janet Ainsworth earns international recognition in the legal community for her work on linguistics and the law. This respected scholar travels the world to make presentations on the value of applying linguistics research to legal matters.
A former public defender, Ainsworth received the outstand-ing service award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and several outstanding teaching awards from the School of Law, where she has been a faculty member since 1988.
Topics such as false confessions to crimes and difficulties interpreting Miranda rights given by police in the U.S. to criminal suspects before interrogations draw Ainsworth’s interest. Her work includes roughly 40 scholarly publications and more than 50 presentations at conferences and colloquia around the globe. Her article, “In a Different Register: The Pragmatics of Powerlessness in Police Interrogation,” first published in the Yale Law Journal, frequently gets cited, excerpted and anthologized. Another scholarly writing, “Categories and Culture: On the ‘Rectification of Names’ in Comparative Law” published in the Cornell Law Review, became a point of pride for her as well.
Among her research interests is an examination of the law from a cross-cultural perspective. She found the Chinese legal system to be an especially fruitful area for consideration of linguistic issues and mistaken ideas about communications. She says legal translations and interpretations can’t be divorced from issues of culture.
Ainsworth is working on two books commissioned by Oxford University Press. One book focuses on consent and coercion in the law. The other addresses linguistic ideology and the law, a set of assumptions about how people communicate and how they ought to communicate.