A question of control? Forms and functions of courtroom questioning in two different adversarial trial systems

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This paper compares the questioning of witnesses and defendants in American and Danish courtroom interaction on the basis of one American and three Danish criminal trials. A total of 780 questions are analysed in terms of their morphosyntactic properties as well as speech act functions. Following a general discussion of courtroom questioning and the notions of coercion and control, as well as an outline of legal cultural differences and similarities between American and Danish courtroom interaction, a coding system is developed for the linguistic comparison, and initial quantitative results of the comparison are discussed. Particular attention is given to declarative questions and the ‘communicative’ speech act function, as the linguistic and interactional features of these are shown to be explored in quite different ways in accordance with the legal and cultural contexts in which the courtroom questioning takes place.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Studies in Language
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)239-278
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • questioning
  • morphosyntax
  • courtroom interaction
  • pragmatics
  • legal cultures
  • coercion
  • control

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