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A comparison of the situational and linguistic features of high-profile criminal trials and TV series courtroom trials

Chen, Meishan (2018) A comparison of the situational and linguistic features of high-profile criminal trials and TV series courtroom trials. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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This dissertation provides a comprehensive description of courtroom language as a register by exploring the situational and linguistic features of authentic and TV courtroom language, as well as four public sub-registers that occur within authentic and TV courtroom (opening statement, direct examinations, cross-examinations, closing argument). It also examines how different participant roles (witnesses, attorneys) use language differently in authentic and TV courtroom trials and the four public sub-registers. Finally, it investigates the use of stance features in authentic and TV courtroom and in the four sub-registers to understand how certain stance features function within courtroom. Studies have been conducted to provide thorough description of various types of spoken register, such as face-to-face conversations (Quaglio, 2009), TV and movie language (Bednerak, 2010), university lectures (Biber, 2009; Biber, Conrad, Reppen, Byrd, and Helt, 2002), outsourced call center phone conversations (Friginal, 2009), and nurse-patient interactions (Staples, 2015), to name just a few. Recently, there have been raising attention to the studies of courtroom language. Courtroom language is a type of legal language, only in a spoken mode. There are some studies that investigate courtroom language which mainly focus on exploring the issues of power asymmetries that underlie dynamics of courtroom interaction (Olanrewaju, 2010), language interpretation (González, 2005), or on a particular linguistic feature such as nominal expressions (Kanté, 2010). However, most studies on courtroom language were conducted from a non-register perspective, and to date few studies have provided a comprehensive description of the linguistic characteristics (e.g., lexico-grammatical features) of courtroom language. In order to understand courtroom language as a specific register, it is important to understand its situational characteristics and linguistic features. More importantly, it is critical to identify the situational and linguistic features of the sub-registers of courtroom, as it is very likely that the situational features of the sub-registers will large influence the language used in courtroom. An important methodological issue has been raised by this study – the need to consider sub-registers when exploring the language used in courtroom. More fine-grained level distinctions should be made when describing a register to consider situational characteristics of those sub-registers, such as communicative purpose and audience, which play a critical role in determining what linguistic features are used in that particular context. Courtroom language, although seen as a specific register of legal language, has sub-registers, with each bearing different functions. Therefore, treating courtroom language as an intact without looking into its sub-registers, differences would not be able to emerge. Only when we treat the general registers at a fine-grained level by looking into their sub-registers, shall we find the differences in language use.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: corpus-based; courtroom language; quantitative; register approach; sub-registers; TV language
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2019 20:44
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5412

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