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50th Anniversary Linguistics Colloquium | How well do L2 speakers of English understand their Miranda rights? Feb. 11

The Linguistics Colloquium series presents Dr. Scott Jarvis discussing “How well do L2 speakers of English understand their Miranda rights?” on Friday, Feb. 11, from 12:55 to 1:50 p.m. via Microsoft TEAMS.

Contact Dr. David Bell, associate professor and chair of Linguistics at Ohio University.


Jarvis is the chair of the Linguistics Department at the University of Utah. He was formerly a faculty member and chair of the Linguistics Department at OHIO.


Abstract: Numerous versions of the Miranda warning exist, and most are written in high-code legalese. Research shows that native English speakers have difficulty understanding the warning (Rogers et al., 2010, 2011), and this is even more challenging for people with limited English proficiency (Bowen, 2017; Eades, 2010; Innes & Erlam, 2018; Pavlenko, 2008; Pavlenko et al., 2016; Pavlenko et al., 2019). Importantly, the nature and degree of this problem are not well understood due to the lack of systematic empirical research.


The purpose of this study is to examine how well L1 (n = 41) and L2 (n = 71) speakers of English comprehend the Miranda warning, whether their level of confidence corresponds with their actual comprehension, what the greatest sources of difficulty are, and what the participants think their individual rights are when they misunderstand them. All participants were students at American universities, with the L2 participants recruited from advanced intensive English courses. The L2 participants included 50 L1 Chinese and 21 L1 Arabic speakers. Comprehension was measured through paraphrasing, recall, and dictation tasks.


Results show that 93% of the L1 English participants surpassed a threshold level of comprehension, but only 3% of the L2 participants did so, and no one with a CEFR proficiency rating lower than C1 reached the threshold. The results also show that participants’ confidence was high even when their comprehension was low. The cause of misunderstanding was often the misinterpretation of familiar-sounding words and phrases (e.g., write for right, wave for waive, president for precedent).


About Linguistics’ 50th Anniversary Celebration


“We are really looking forward to everyone joining us again this spring, either live in person or via Microsoft TEAMS Fridays 12:55 to 1:50 p.m. to celebrate our anniversary,” said Dr. David Bell, chair of the Linguistics Department, who also invited alumni and friends to add their names to the donor wall by making a gift, of whatever amount, to the Linguistics Department’s general support fund.


He noted that all funds go to support our students’ registration and travel expenses to conferences where they will present their research.


“And please stay in touch! Send us a message on our Linguistics FB page at,” he added.

Event Details

  • Kelly Pilleux-Petronia
  • Rory O'Malley
  • Mahmoud Ali
  • Beverly Flanigan

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