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Speak English or What?Codeswitching and Interpreter Use in New York City Courts$
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Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199337569

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199337569.001.0001

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Challenging claims: Immigrants in small claims court

Challenging claims: Immigrants in small claims court

(p.16) 2 Challenging claims: Immigrants in small claims court
Speak English or What?

Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 introduces the fieldwork setting of small claims court in New York City. It also focuses on the demand for court interpreting relative to the city’s linguistic diversity and multilingualism. The chapter highlights the experiences of litigants with limited proficiency in English, the types of disputes that bring them to court, and the process they have to go through to have their case heard. Observed patterns of court use reveal that typical disputes are marked by both linguistic and socioeconomic asymmetry, with tenants or workers who speak a language other than English suing English-speaking landlords or employers. Drawing on excerpts from transcripts, the chapter provides evidence of the litigants’ legal consciousness, that is, their expectations from the court, their sense of entitlement, and their understanding of the law.

Keywords:   small claims court, litigants, legal consciousness, disputes, multilingualism, diversity, New York City

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