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Power in Early Modern English courtroom discourse

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Abstract

The paper discusses power in Early Modern English courtroom. A few levels of linguistic analysis are examined for the occurrence of the exponents of power. As regards lexicon, it is the specific vocabulary which creates the social distance between the interrogators and the interrogated. My hypothesis is that the vocabulary items include not only what I call “overt” exponents of power, e.g. impolite expressions, but also “covert” ones, like an ironic use of politeness markers or forms of address. Moreover, power can be reflected in the syntax of the utterances, e.g. in the questions asked by the interrogators. Finally, many (socio-)pragmatic devices contribute to the demonstration of power. Thus, specific speech acts, e.g. covert orders can be disguised as overt requests, and the inferencing strategies used by the interrogators can reveal the presuppositions often contained in their utterances.

References

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