Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 12, No 2

Between legal and social truths: The management of intertextual gaps in the construction of narrative authority in a US mock trial competition

Joon-Beom Chu
Issued Date: 9 Jul 2019


This article explores how US law students learn to manage ‘intertextuality’, or the circulation of words, phrases, and conversations across diverse contexts of language use, as an effective communication tool in a mock trial competition. Using discourse and conversation analytical methods to identify the communication strategies used by a law student in one such competition, I argue that law students learn two intertextual strategies that link courtroom discourse with both institutional and social sources of textual authority. On the one hand, they minimize what may be called ‘intertextual gaps’ to project the institutional authority of official texts such as sworn depositions; and conversely, they maximize ‘intertextual gaps’ to perform commonly recognizable social conversations with witnesses and jurors. By learning various intertextual strategies in mock trials, law students learn to build a coherent narrative in the courtroom out of a heterogeneous mixture of legal and social texts, bringing together the institutional and social worlds that these texts conjure up. As law students learn to shift between legal and social conversations in the courtroom, they realize the power of legal institutions to reproduce and legitimize dominant social hierarchies.

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DOI: 10.1558/jalpp.32165


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