Language on trial: questioning strategies and European-Polynesian mis-communication in New Zealand courtrooms

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dc.contributor.advisor Pautley, Andrew en Lane, Christopher en 2007-09-11T08:04:19Z en 2007-09-11T08:04:19Z en 1988 en
dc.identifier THESIS 88-178 en
dc.identifier.citation Thesis (PhD--Linguistics)--University of Auckland. 1988 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description Full text is available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland only. en
dc.description.abstract This study addresses a number of distinct research areas: aspects of spoken English discourse (requests for information, repair, and yes and no); courtroom interaction; and miscommunication between Europeans and Pacific Island Polynesians in New Zealand. These lines of investigation are brought together in an analysis of the questioning of Pacific Island witnesses in Auckland courts, in the absence of interpreters. The courtroom context and the structure of District Court trials are described in detail using an 'ethnography of communication' framework A trial is seen not as a single communicative event, but as a hierarchically-organised series of communicative events belonging to different genres. This description provides a background for a pragmatic and discourse analysis of lawyers' questions and witnesses' responses. Lawyers' questions are pragmatically complex. In the guise of requests for information, they often realise other illocutionary acts, especially accusations or challenges. They often convey different messages to different listeners (particularly the witness, judge, and other counsel). They are subject to restrictive legal rules which provide grounds for objection or veto. A notable feature of courtroom testimony is repetitive questioning. It is argued that, in general, repetitive questioning has repair (clarifying and correcting) and challenging functions, and that repetitive questioning sequences (RQSs) are signs of conflict or mis-communication. In cross-examination the challenging/conflict functions become prominent. Repetitive questioning sequences in the testimonies of European native English speakers and Pacific Island second-language speakers of English are compared. There were noticeably more problematic responses in Pacific Island witnesses' testimonies. RQSs in second-language speakers' testimonies were likely to be longer and more involved than in native speakers' testimonies, and less likely to achieve resolution. Responses in long RQSs in native speakers' testimonies were mainly straightforward answers or hedged or tangential (i.e. 'off-the-point') responses. Responses in long RQSs in second-language speakers' testimonies were mainly apparent self-corrections or tangential responses. The nature of these responses indicates that the Pacific Island witnesses had difficulty understanding he questions. One aim of the study was to test claims that European-Polynesian miscommunication often arises when Europeans ask questions of certain forms (particularly ones containing negatives) and Polynesians reply with yes or no. Using RQSs as indicators of miscommunication, the claims could not be confirmed. However, analysis of interactional data indicates that there are ambiguities and uncertainties in the use of yes and no in English, and these sometimes cause misunderstandings among native speakers. It is concluded that fie major problem in the questioning of Pacific Island witnesses was the witnesses' difficulty comprehending the questions, and the main problem with yes and no is that they can disguise misinterpretations and failures of comprehension. It is argued that miscommunication is likely to lead to negative evaluations of Pacific Island witnesses, the reinforcing of negative stereotypes, and the possibility of serious miscarriages of justice. Brief consideration is given to theoretical implications of the study, and practical implications for language teaching and court procedure. The need for professional interpreting services is emphasised. en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA9911015314002091 en
dc.rights Restricted Item. Available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland. en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. en
dc.rights.uri en
dc.title Language on trial: questioning strategies and European-Polynesian mis-communication in New Zealand courtrooms en
dc.type Thesis en Linguistics en The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en

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