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David Griffin is an attorney and current PhD candidate in Centre for Language and Communication Research. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Northwestern University, a Master of Arts in Forensic Linguistics with Distinction from Cardiff University, and a Juris Doctor from Boston University. He is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

David’s primary area of research is the use of language in legal settings, which falls under the ambit of forensic linguistics. He is supervised by Dr. Chris Heffer and Dr. Dawn Knight.



Lexomancy: Law and Magic in the Pseudolegal Writings of the Sovereign Citizen Movement

The pseudolegal writings of the anti-government conspiracy theorists known generally as “Sovereign Citizens” feature a complex combination of written and graphic elements of potential interest to scholars in the fields of law, linguistics, and religious studies. By weaving together pieces of actual legal argumentation with features typically associated with ritual magic (e.g. the use of bloody thumbprints as seals), Sovereign Citizen documents call into question conventional linguistic understandings of the potential intertextual relationships between genres and the manner in which texts are perceived as authoritative by their readers. Though the substance of Sovereign Citizen legal claims has been thoroughly discredited by both lawyers and historians alike, the movement’s distinctive writings have not yet been examined from a linguistic perspective. It is proposed that Sovereign Citizen documents can be collectively understood as documents (1) with an intended legal purpose, (2) making an argument that is primarily jurisdictional in nature, (3) but that are fundamentally closer to ritual magic texts in their overall discursive functioning than they are to legitimate legal documents. Employing that definition, this thesis will attempt to shed new light upon Sovereign Citizen documents as a genre by combining methods from multimodal corpus linguistics and corpus-assisted discourse analysis.