Centre for Language and Law

The CLL’s research focuses on contemporary legal issues and complex societal problems in a digital age, with focus on inequalities and resultant injustice.  The research covers broad areas such as internet regulation, debt collection practices and children’s social care hearings.



The Centre for Language and Law (CLL) is a new Centre for Aston University. Professor Lauren Devine has joined Aston as Centre Director, bringing a wealth of experience in leading externally funded projects and conducting multi-methods research into law and policy.

The CLL’s initial projects use multi-method analyses of written legal material.  The projects are establishing a linguistic analysis of legal texts in the context of digital justice, looking specifically at intersectionality.   To contextualise this work, the analysis also considers the impact and integrity of evidential statements, identifying features of effective testimony and how this affects ‘justice’.  The CLL is also working on term definition research, including a cross-section of areas of law particularly prone to creating social injustices and inequalities such as safeguarding and child protection proceedings, internet regulation and debt collection. 

Our People

Research staff
Prof Lauren Devine
Director of the Centre for Language and Law 
Email: l.devine@aston.ac.uk

Stephen Parker
Lecturer in Law
Email: s.parker3@aston.ac.uk

Dr Annina Heini
Research Associate in Forensic Linguistics
Email: a.heini14@aston.ac.uk
 Honorary staff 
Dr Juliette Scott
Legal Translation Practitioner, Researcher & Consultant
Email: juliette.scott@tiscali.co.uk
John O'Shea 
Legal Translation Practitioner
Email: info@jurtrans.com


Debt collection communication, regulation and legislation

Dr Leigh Harrington is conducting an analysis of written forms of debt collection communications, including letters and text messages. She is also analysing the regulations and legislation that govern and informs those practices to ensure that creditors operate legally, transparently and responsibly.

Internet content regulation in Europe: analysis of the linguistic dimensions in legal texts on the issue of “hate speech” and “information manipulation”

Dr Nadia Makouar's research interests concern legal discourses and genres related to internet content regulation. She particularly investigates terminologisation processes of law concepts related to hate speech, fake news and online disinformation in Europe. The objective is to enhance the understanding of conceptualization and normativity of legal terms and dynamics of norms fixation. Her analysis draws on theoretical and conceptual tools from discourse analysis, interpretive semantics and corpus linguistics (contrastive and structuring approaches). 

Intersectionality and digital justice: navigating the liminal spaces of lawtech

This project considers intersectionality in the modern, digital legal environment.  The lawtech agenda explores technological possibilities to advance a cost-saving agenda across the legal system.  This project considers this use of technology to automate justice in the context of intersectionality and its consequences, identifying, analysing and explaining the resultant liminal spaces inhabited by those seeking justice. The research uses a central linguistic analysis to explore and explain the issues.  By identifying and focusing on interdisciplinary thresholds at the frontier of the lawtech agenda, the project offers analysis of the liminal spaces certain groups in society must navigate in the legal system, and what they mean for the concept of justice.  This unique analysis draws a variety of linguistic methods to offer explanation of the costs and benefits and the implications for policy, practice of technology-driven legal innovation. 

Discourses of Disaster: expert evidence about parenting capacity in suspected child abuse cases

This project continues Professor Devine’s work in safeguarding and child protection law, policy and practice.  In this project she focusses on the issues relating to the use of psychologists’ expert evidence in cases of suspected child abuse.  Using a large corpus of reports submitted to UK family courts in s.31 Care Order Applications, the project analyses the language and content of the reports, and their impact on the legal outcomes.  This analysis provides policy commentary and recommendation and highlights disconnect between the aims of the Public Law Outline and those of the experts consulted, resulting in outcomes which are dictated by procedural constraints rather than justice.  The research is particularly concerned with the impact of vague language in experts’ reports and the resultant lack of ability of the court to verify the reliability of the evidence presented.