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Linguistic manipulations in legal discourse: Framing questions and ‘smuggling’ information

Aldridge-Waddon, Michelle and Luchjenbroers, June 2007. Linguistic manipulations in legal discourse: Framing questions and ‘smuggling’ information. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 14 (1) , pp. 85-107.

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With an emphasis on the linguistic experiences of sexual-assault witnesses in the British legal system (adult rape victims and child abuse victims), this paper is a consideration of how the lexical choices in the questions posed to a witness encourage a particular perception of her testimony. The concepts to be discussed include conceptual frames and smuggling information, and we offer a qualitative consideration of how the semantic features of a lawyer’s lexical choices can support a representation of eitherthe witness or her experiences that is not in her interests. The appropriateness of a lawyer’s chosen frame is of key importance to ‘smuggling information’, a term used when a lawyer’s question inserts (negative) information into a witness’s testimony through suggestion. We look at how such linguistic manipulations can weaken a witness’s account by suggesting that she is to blame, and/or is lying or perhaps has simply misunderstood the situation. Our analysis offers an explanation as to why vulnerable witnesses may not be believed in court.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
P Language and Literature > PE English
Publisher: Equinox Publishing
ISSN: 1748-8893
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 01:51

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