Power Relations in Courtroom Discourse

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Transcripts of trials in a criminal court

The study was conducted to analyse power relations in courtroom discourse with reference to trial transcripts at Mt Darwin Magistrate‟s Court.

The objectives of the study were to describe the power relations that exist between the courtroom participants.

In addition, this study made an analysis of how language is used as a symbol of power in courtroom interactions.

The study adopted a qualitative approach and used participant observation as a data gathering technique.

The analytical framework used was Fairclough‟s (1989) Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Brown and Levinson‟s (1987) politeness theory.

From the study, it emerged that courtroom conventions constrain the content, form and style of the language used by lay persons.

Also, the courtroom conventions impose a degree of politeness to be observed in the court and this has a direct effect on language use.

Among the legal professionals themselves, power imbalances exist and the magistrate seems to wield a lot of power and has the overall and final say in all courtroom proceedings.

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