International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 12, No 1 (2005)

Acquiring authority through the acquisition of genre: Latinas, intertextuality and violence

Shonna Trinch
Issued Date: 14 Feb 2007


This article examines how laypersons acquire legal language. The site of this study is the protective order interview, where victim-survivors of domestic abuse seek legal assistance. Using thirteen protective order application interviews, in which victim-survivors had applied for orders at least once before, the analysis tests the hypothesis that women who had been through the application process would learn what constitutes relevant evidence. I borrow from theories of Second Language Acquisition that explain that when learning a foreign language, learners speak neither the target language nor their first language, but an interlanguage. Analogously, laypersons who have had iterative interaction with the legal system develop an intergenre that is neither pure story nor report. Findings are discussed as a type of 'crossing', because the intergenre raises issues of authenticity for an adversarial system that demands consistency and allows for legal decisions to turn on constructions of credibility.

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DOI: 10.1558/sll.2005.12.1.19


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