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Jury Trials and the Popularization of Legal Language

A Discourse Analytical Approach


Patrizia Anesa

This book explores the techniques and discursive strategies that are typical of the communicative interactions between professionals and laymen in a jury trial. It also investigates the complex relationship that emerges between written and oral communication in different phases of the trial. The analysis takes into account the many nuances that define these dynamics and the various possibilities that the jurors have to intervene in the process, particularly in the light of recent procedural developments. Special attention is devoted to the observation of the specific strategies adopted to illustrate legal ideas and concepts to the jurors according to the speakers’ various communicative purposes. By adopting a discourse analytical perspective which combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches, the book highlights the hybridity of the language used in court and the combination of different styles and registers.


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3. Research framework 51


3. Research framework If the world is complex and messy, then at least some of the time we’re going to have to give up on simplicities. (John Law) 3.1 Research interest and rationale This study arises out of the desire to investigate the complexity under- lying the interaction of different discourses within a highly institution- alized event, namely a jury trial. It may be argued that a society func- tions because of the interaction between experts and non-experts in different fields (Gunnarsson/Linell/Nordberg 1997: 1); consequently, an analysis of the interaction between these two broad categories is particularly crucial to any investigation of communicative events, es- pecially those which take place in institutionalized settings. More specifically, a trial by jury represents a typical locus of knowledge asymmetries in that the participants, by definition, display significant differences in (inter alia) class, status, gender, and level of education. The analysis focuses in particular on the communication process between legal experts and non-experts. Even though such cat- egories are not self-explanatory (see section 4.4.1), in the context of a jury trial, belonging to (or being excluded from) a certain professional category is one of the fundamental criteria which determine which people may or may not assume a certain role in the event. In other words, the communicative roles assumed, for instance by lawyers and by jurors, are clearly distinct and are highly dependent on their profes- sional membership and their personal background. In investigating trial discourse, we are dealing with an event that is...

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