Historical Courtroom Discourse
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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In comparison with Russian trial transcripts of the fifteenth century, trial transcripts of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries show a drift toward compact, writer-based reporting styles. In an earlier study (Collins 2001), I suggested that this happened because of significant changes in legal institutions. From being primarily oral confrontations, trials became battles of documents filed in chanceries and scrutinized by bureaucrats oriented to the written word; concomitantly, the transcripts became dossiers of documents literally glued together and framed by short narrative passages, including reports of dialogue. In the present study I examine a representative sample of these trial dossiers to demonstrate the link between reporting and discourse-organization strategies and chancery practices. First, I discuss how the dossiers are arranged into episodes graphically and syntactically. Second, I investigate the methods of speech reporting utilized in the trial dossiers and the contextual motivation for the choice of one method over another.


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