International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 6, No 1 (1999)

Questioning in interpreted testimony

Azucena C. Rigney
Issued Date: 7 Mar 2007


Courtroom talk does not represent a real exchange of information between an addresser and an addressee, but a display of information for a non-speaking participant, the jury, that has to solve a dispute based on the facts as presented during testimony. The question/answer sequence and, more specifically, the linguistic manipulation of questions is a strategic instrument of domination in the legal context, where interrogation performs different communicative functions such as apologizing, complaining, challenging, signalling surprise and disbelief, ascribing blame, etc. When questioning is done through an interpreter, attorneys lose control over witness testimony, not only because the constant switch between languages slows down the interrogation process, but also because interpreters inadvertently alter the pragmatics of questions as tools of manipulation. Using examples from the Rosa López testimony during the O.J. Simpson murder trial (Los Angeles, 1995), this paper will address the dynamics of courtroom questioning through an interpreter.

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DOI: 10.1558/sll.1999.6.1.83


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