FORENSIC LINGUISTICS: POWER AND ASYMMETRIES IN THE NIGERIAN COURTROOM DISCOURSE

AUTHOR: FARINDE OLANREWAJU

FROM UJAH-UNIZIK JOURNAL OF ARTS AND HUMANITIES VOL II NO. 2, 2010

PUBLISHED BY FACULTY OF ARTS

NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA

There is power asymmetry in courtroom discourse. Courtroom professional such as judges, magistrates, lawyers and prosecutors have power over the defendants and witnesses. This paper attempts to provide an explanatory account of linguistic communication between legal professionals such as lawyers and prosecutors, and the witnesses, with a view to show the power prevalent in the courtroom discourse. To this end, various forms of questions such as WH-questions, alternative questions, yes/no questions and declarative questions are ana lysed to account for the discursive practices between the lawyers/prosecutors and witnesses. One of the key suggestions of this paper is that narrative mode is indispensable in the fact-finding process, which explains why it is favoured during direct examination. Also, questions that contain propositions and presuppositions are strong weapons for the lawyers in controlling, convincing and persuading the witnesses to endorse their ideas. The analyses carried out in the paper suggest the fact that lawyers maintain tight control of courtroom discourse.

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