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Intonation and Prosodic Structure

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Academic Paper


Title: Audience design in the police interview: The interactional and judicial consequences of audience orientation
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: Police-suspect interviews in England and Wales are a multi-audience, multi-purpose, transcontextual mode of discourse. They are conducted as part of the initial investigation into a crime, but are subsequently recontextualized through the judicial process, ultimately being presented in court as evidence against the interviewee. The communicative challenges posed by multiple future audiences are investigated by applying Bell's (1984) audience design model to the police interview, and the resulting “poor fit” demonstrates why this context is discursively counterintuitive to participants. Further, data analysis indicates that interviewer and interviewee, although ostensibly addressing each other, may orientate to different audiences, with potentially serious consequences. As well as providing new insight into police-suspect interview interaction, this article seeks to extend understanding of the influence of audience on interaction at the discourse level, and to contribute to the development of theoretical models for contexts with multiple or asynchronous audiences. (Audience design, audience orientation, police interviews, forensic linguistics)

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 42, Issue 1.

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