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On being heard in court trials and police interrogations: A study of discourse in two institutional contexts
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Communications Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
1988 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present studies describe various aspects of the dialogues in two institutional situations, namely criminal court trials and preliminary police interrogations. Both situations are social encounters where professional representatives of an official institution meet and communicate with laymen, suspects and defendants, who are the subject of the institutions' functions. The professionals' knowledge of the institutional 'frames' and of the specific demands of the situations is only to a limited degree shared by the suspects and defendants. This makes for various problems in the communication between the parties of the dialogues. The professionals necessarily play a dominant role in the encounter and the suspects' and defendants' opportunities to make themselves heardare thereby limited. This problem, and the ways the actors cope with it, is the main topic of the research reported in the three separate parts of this work.

The empirical data comprise tape-recordings of 40 criminal court trials, concerning minor thefts and fraud, and 30 police interrogations of suspects in the same types of cases. Supplementary data are interviews with the suspects and defendants. The taperecordings of the court trials and the police interrogations, as weil as the interviews, have been transcribed in extenso.

The first empirical part is a mainly quantitative study. The court trial is analysed as a middle ground where the professionals and the defendants accommodate to each others' verbal styles. The professionals are found to change to a less complex style when speaking to the defendants (in the examination-phase of the trial) campared to the way they express themselves when addressing the court. Professionals are even found toaccommodate to the linguistic styles of individual defendants. The defendants, on the other hand, adjust their vocabulary by exhibiting less of colloquial jargon in court than in the more informal post-interviews.  

The seeond empirical part focuses on how the discourse space is shared between the professionals and the defendants during the court trial. The quantitative part of the study measures the actors' contributions to the dialogues in terms of different types of initiatives and responses. Also the effects of various questioning strategies are investigated. The defendants are not very active during the trials and one finding is thatthe distribution of dominance is related to the severity of the offence.

The third separate study concems various aspects of the police interrogations. These dialogues are quite firmly administered by the policemen, even if they leave more room for the suspects' initiatives than do the court trials. The dialogues are very much influenced by the policemen's task to write a report. The problem of transforminginformation from a spoken to a written version is an important topic of the study. Even if the reports could be regarded as the suspects' stories, the information is found to emanate from the policemen to a considetable degree. This is presented as a general problem ofinterpreting and passing on information in bureaueratic routines.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 1988. , 87 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 25
Keyword [en]
Dialogue analysis, Institutional discourse, Court trial, Police interrogation, Accommodation, Dominance, Speech and Writing
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-35050Local ID: 24725ISBN: 91-7870-379-4OAI: diva2:255898
Public defence
1988-09-16, Sal C 2, C-huset, Linköping Universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Papers, included in the Ph.D. thesis, are not registered and included in the posts from 1999 and backwards.Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2012-07-12Bibliographically approved

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Jönsson, Linda
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