A speech event Essay Example
A speech event Essay Example

A speech event Essay Example

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According to Labov and Fansted (1977:30), an interview is defined as "a speech event in which Person A obtains information from Person B about B's life." This definition suggests that interviews, regardless of their setting or purpose, are based on power dynamics, where Person A controls the structure and content of Person B's speech due to institutional or social hierarchy. For example, primary interviewer officers (pios) use linguistic tactics to maintain power over suspects' speech in order to achieve the institutional goal of obtaining a voluntary confession with minimal police influence (Heydon, 2005:50). This essay will examine the unequal relationship between pios and suspects during suspect interviews, and discuss how pios utilize interactive structures during turn-taking, subject management, and police manipulation of suspect narratives to establish authority over suspects during interviews. The second half of the essay will explore the resistance strate


gies employed by suspects when faced with information seeking and verification seeking questions from police interviewers. Excerpts from Harold Shipman's interview will be analyzed to support these arguments.The institutional characteristics of constabularies authorization over suspects can be better understood by considering the differences between mundane conversations and structured communication events. In mundane conversations, such as those with friends, participants are equal. However, in structured communication events like constabularies and fishy interaction, there is an unequal power dynamic where the position of the latter participant is more powerful. This power allows them to influence the outcome of the conversation by bringing up subjects, asking questions, and disagreeing with the other participant. On the other hand, the less powerful participant does not have this ability. This power imbalance becomes significant when examining the goals of police

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questioning and the language used to achieve those goals.

The way turn-taking occurs in the opening and closing of constabularies interviews establishes unequal power relations over suspects. Heydon (2005:94) notes that through the tri-partite interview model (opening, gathering information, and closing), police interviewing officers (PIOs) are able to control the flow of conversation as they must provide certain information on record to establish legitimacy for a suspect's confession. To ensure PIOs follow institutional legal requirements, the opening and closing sections of the interview inform suspects about their rights and responsibilities.Among the various interview methods for law enforcement, there are participatory models (P12R) where roles of the police investigating officer (pio) and the suspect are defined. According to Heydon (1997), when police officers make formal statements during interviews, they are acting on behalf of the police establishment rather than themselves. The pio is obligated to speak certain words as required by the establishment, making them an "energizer" and "information supplier." Conversely, the suspect takes on the role of the "respondent." In this structure, the pio asks questions on behalf of the establishment, initiating each turn in the conversation (First Pair Part), while the suspect responds (Second Pair Part) (Heydon 2005:95). In summary, through this allocation of roles, the pio maintains control over suspects during interviews.The police information officers (PIOs) have the ability to explain sequences to maintain their role as the interviewer, even when the suspects deviate from the question-answer format. PIOs also have control over the suspects through subject management. According to Jefferson (1984, 1988), in everyday conversations, changes in subject are achieved in various ways, but in institutional settings like the police, where turn-types are

predetermined, the speaker imposes limitations on the maintenance of subjects by participants (Heydon in Sarangia and Leeuwen 2002: 82). This section will analyze how suspects manage subjects with the guidance of PIOs. The authoritative voice of the PIO will be further examined. According to Heydon (2005), suspects sometimes initiate new subjects by providing "multi-component answers." This allows the suspect to provide additional information that was not originally requested by the questioning officer when a direct response is actually required. Frankel (1990) describes this approach of multi-component answers as one that not only offers an option for which part of the information will be retrieved next, but also minimally obligates the interviewer to respond to the information provided.An example of this attack is shown in Extract 4-4 INT1 (Heydon 2005:101). The suspect's initial response on turn 49 consists of one word: (1.7) nothing. This word alone does not constitute a complete response to the PIO inquiry in turn 48. However, the suspect then adds additional information that further explains their response. There are various ways in which PIO can introduce topics throughout the interview, but I will focus on two techniques available to them. Firstly, the language used by the PIO at the beginning of the interview can indicate their intention to discuss the alleged offense for which the suspect has been arrested. An example of this is given in Extract 4-16 INT10 (Heydon 2005:112). The second method of topic introduction available to the PIO is known as the "discoursal index" (Thomas 1989). This involves police interviewers setting the boundaries of the conversation and limiting the suspect's contributions to within those parameters. For instance, by gathering

information about the alleged criminal activity, the PIO restricts the subsequent interview to only focus on that specific alleged criminal activity of the suspect (Heydon 2005:155).The Auburn et al (1995) study examines how police interviewers manipulate the suspect's version of events, specifically focusing on their preparation of the suspect's story. This analytic approach allows the police to maintain control over suspects during interviews. Heydon suggests that interviewers have a tendency to reframe the suspect's narrative to depict a more violent portrayal than what the suspect initially stated. For example, in Extract 4-36 INT1, the interviewer replaces the suspect's words with more aggressive verbs like "hit" and "smashed," while the original language used by the suspect was "give." The interviewer's use of the verb "smashed" implies a brutal act by the suspect, thus strengthening the case for intentional violence. In summary, the analyzed patterns of dialogue show that police interviewers can assert their authority over suspects through strategies like turn-taking, managing topics, and reconstructing events. Nevertheless, this text will now examine how suspects, particularly Harold Shipman, have attempted to resist police constraints and coercive questioning. In this specific case, Harold Shipman is being questioned about the suspicious death of his female patient, which he is accused of causing through a lethal dose of morphine.According to Gibbons (2003:95), the purpose of police inquiry is to obtain genuine information and verification in a specific version of events. This can be achieved through asking suspects both information-seeking and verification-seeking questions. Information-seeking questions involve gathering information from the suspects, while verification-seeking questions involve trying to get the suspect to agree with the interviewer's version of events. Shipman resisted both forms

of questioning. Confirmation-seeking questions are asked by constructing a series of events and asking the suspect to confirm or deny them with a yes or no response. This type of questioning puts pressure on the suspect because they require minimal response. Maley (1994) identifies three types of verification-seeking questions: indicative moods with tickets, tag questions, and bare indicative moods. These forms of questioning will now be briefly examined in relation to Shipman's interview. Indicative moods with tickets are similar to tag questions.In the interview transcript below, there are examples of a specific type of inquiry that includes requests for the respondent to agree with a previous statement. These inquiries, found in turns 25, 27, and 29, aim to encourage the respondent to briefly comment on the validity of the proposition and validate the presented version of events. They are less confrontational than tag inquiries and help minimize opposition. In the given extract, each statement is accompanied by an italicized question form that follows the structure of Finite + Subject + Residue, serving to prompt S (Shipman) to confirm the facts of the case. For example, the question form "would you accept that from me" reduces pressure on the suspect and softens the demand for them to accept or deny the interviewer's propositions. It is not surprising that S avoided answering these inquiries, as indicated in turns 26 and 28 with responses like "if you say so." The same resistance strategy is employed in turn 30. By avoiding agreement with commonly accepted details, Shipman acknowledges that this may lead to longer sequences of questions aimed at blaming him and therefore tries to disrupt the flow of

the interview.Atkinson and Drew ( 1979:221 ) suggest that by acknowledging early on that inquiries may lead to blaming, the suspect can avoid the interviewer's questioning by using a pre-sequence and ending the sequence before it turns into a more damaging accusation. Tag inquiries are more persuasive than indicative moods with intentions to encourage respondents to confirm or deny a previous version of events. As Tsui ( 1992:92 ) points out, the very structure of a tag inquiry implies that it would be unwise to take a position different from that of the questioner. Leo and Thomas ( The Mirand argument, 1998 ) further propose that tag inquiries are spoken in a descending pitch in order to emphasize the speaker's confidence in the claim being made, thereby expecting agreement from the respondent. An example of this can be seen in: Here, the declarative tag "aren't you" expresses a definite content through its interpersonal significance as there was no modal of possibility. Thus, in turn 37, the interviewer portrays the suspect as the Actor who 'administered' a lethal dose of a drug which implies that they killed the woman. The certainty of P's accusations in turn 37, followed by the tag inquiry, prompts S to respond with the expected answer, which is to confirm the proposition posed in the question. However, in this case, S denies the accusation, openly opposing the proposition and demonstrating legitimate resistance.However, Shipman does not provide an alternative answer, so he does not suggest anyone else who could have committed the murder. There are also instances where suspects avoid answering questions by saying "I don't remember" in order to avoid giving a

positive or negative response. This tactic prevents the suspect from being accused of lying. Shipman maintains his innocence by asserting that the question is not a question and resisting the officer's suggestion that he is choosing not to remember, therefore resisting correction. Another form of confirming question is naked indicative moods, which are forceful and assertive. In line 39, the interviewer uses a declarative structure that portrays the suspect as the main actor in the killing of the deceased patient. This declaration does not contain any interpersonal modal verb that indicates the certainty of the interviewer. Instead, it is a statement without any modal auxiliary, suggesting that the interviewer is making a statement declaring the suspect guilty.The declaratory has a definite content that accuses the suspect and compels them to use a resistance scheme (Ibid:223). In this section, I have discussed how confirmation-seeking questions can be resisted through contestation, turning away, and rectification. Additionally, the level of coercion increases with the type of question, with declaratory with tickets being the least coercive and au naturel declaratory being the most coercive. Therefore, coercion questions are used when there is likely to be opposition. In the next section, I will explore resistance to information-seeking questions and conclude the essay. Information-seeking questions occur when the suspect is asked to provide new information that cannot be confirmed by the inquirer. However, despite the suspect's freedom to provide more than yes/no responses, the interviewer places constraints on the amount of information given (Gibbons 2003:101). The three types of information-seeking questions are Finite/Subject forms, WH-questions, and either/or questions. I will only focus on how either/or questions elicit information in Shipman's transcript.

Either/or questions can be described as the most controlling type of forms as they limit the respondent's response to choosing between two options provided in the question.They can also be viewed as a combination of verification and information-seeking questions, since the interviewer might not know which option mentioned in the question is correct. They effectively eliminate other versions of events from the suspect's answer. Turn 88 exemplifies an either/or question that heavily relies on the suspect's response. It also uses a tactic of confirmation-seeking by employing a ticket. In this case, the suspect deliberately avoids answering the either/or question, claiming that the interviewer is merely stating a narrative. In turn 88, the interviewer portrays the suspect as the participatory actor who changed and covered up patient records to conceal his actions. The presence of tags in this context indicates that the interviewer is aware that the suspect cannot answer either/or questions without incriminating himself. Thus, the interviewer is pressing for a confession in this situation. Shipman again refuses to provide an answer to avoid admitting guilt, suggesting that the officer's question was unnecessary due to it being a narrative. This essay has presented some interactive techniques used by police interviewers to establish and maintain control over suspects during interviews.The text examines how suspects, specifically Shipman, have used different strategies during interviews. Heydon's (2005) model of police tri-partite interview structure is used to demonstrate how the police can control the interview by managing turn-taking and constructing the suspect's version of events. Gibbons' (2003) typology of police interview questions is also discussed, showing how suspects can resist providing information while appearing cooperative. Additionally, Shipman's resistance to being

seen as a doctor turned murderer is explored, with examples of resistance, correction, avoidance, and denying responsibility. The references cited are Auburn, T., S. Drake, et al. (1995); Atkinson, J.M. and Drew, P. (1979); Ehrlich, S. (2002); and Gibbons, J. (2003).Oxford: Blackwell
Heydon, G. (2005) The Language of Police Interviewing. A Critical Analysis. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Maley, Y. (1994) 'The Language of the jurisprudence' in J. Gibbons (ed.) Language in the Law. Essex: Longman, 11-50.
Shuy, R, W. (1998) The Language of Confession, Interrogation and Deception. London: Sage
Tsui, A. (1992) 'A functional description of inquiries' in M. Coulthard (ed.) Advances in Spoken Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge, 89-110.
Sarangi, S., Leeuwen, T.V., (2002) Applied linguistics and communities of pattern, British Association for Applied Linguistics. 45(1), 81
Shuy, R.W. (1998) The linguistic communication of confession, question and misrepresentation Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage Publications
Leo, R.A, Thomas, G.C. (1998) The Miranda argument: Law Justice, and patroling. North Eastern University Press: Boston
Newbury, P, Johnson, A. (2006) Suspects opposition to restraining and coercive schemes in the constabulary interview, The international diary of address, linguistic communication and the jurisprudence (13.2), 213-240

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