The book uses critical sociolinguistic analysis to examine the social
consequences of courtroom talk. The focus of the study is the
cross-examination of three Australian Aboriginal boys who were prosecution
witnesses in the case of six police officers charged with their abduction.
The analysis reveals how the language mechanisms allowed by courtroom rules
of evidence serve to legitimize neocolonial control over Indigenous people.
In the propositions and assertions made in cross-examination, and their
adoption by judicial decision-makers, the three boys were constructed not
as victims of police abuse, but rather in terms of difference, deviance and
delinquency. This identity work addresses fundamental issues concerning
what it means to be an Aboriginal young person, as well as constraints
about how to perform or live this identity, and the rights to which
Aboriginal people can lay claim, while legitimizing police control over
their freedom of movement. Understanding this courtroom talk requires
analysis of the sociopolitical and historical actions and structures within
which the courtroom hearing was embedded. Through this analysis, the
interrelatedness of structure, agency, constraint and change, which is
central to critical sociolinguistics, becomes apparent. In its
investigation of language ideologies that underpin courtroom talk, as well
as the details of how language is used, and the social consequences of this
talk, the book highlights the need for far-reaching changes to courtroom
rules of evidence.