Conflictive courtroom discourse from a sociohistorical pragmatic perspective: power dynamics in the civil trial of Anne Hutchinson (1637) with special reference to speech acts, Gricean maxims and (im)politeness strategies

Zidros, Vaia Vanessa (2015) Conflictive courtroom discourse from a sociohistorical pragmatic perspective: power dynamics in the civil trial of Anne Hutchinson (1637) with special reference to speech acts, Gricean maxims and (im)politeness strategies. MRes thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study is an investigation of historical courtroom discourse focusing in particular on speech acts, Gricean maxims and notions of (im)politeness. Since the meaning of utterance is constrained and affected by the context, court records require to be examined within the socio-historical background of their production due to the impoverished nature of historical data. This has been demonstrated by studies in the Salem witch trials (e.g. Culpeper & Semino 2000; Archer 2002) and EModE trials (e.g. Archer 2005; Kryk-Kastovsky 2009). The study undertaken in this thesis presents the theoretical and methodological underpinnings enabling the current historical sociopragmatic analysis of the source text containing the examination of Anne Hutchinson by the General Court in Puritan New England, 1637. The power dynamics of this trial are examined in terms of the pragmatic strategies utilized by the interlocutors represented in the court record.
The research context of this thesis specifies that the framework suitable for the purposes of this analysis is a historical sociopragmatic approach with an emphasis on qualitative analytic methodologies. This approach enables a wide contextualization of the court record by which the relevant pragmatic notions may be identified. Moreover, this study’s assessment of the complex nature of historical data shows that court records– although not transcriptions in the modern sense – exhibit several speech-like features, which indicate that attempts were made to represent spoken language. Additionally, studies concerned with both contemporary and seventeenth-century courtroom discourse are reviewed, demonstrating that pragmatic meaning is constrained and affected in particular by the following context related factors: the distinct participant roles, the assumptions and beliefs of the interlocutors, and the power asymmetry. All of these factors contribute to the conflictive speech of the courtroom activity type.
In view of the above research context, the thesis concludes that the speech event of the court record analyzed in the present study can be reconstructed by utilizing the relatively high degree of orality of court records, and acquiring knowledge of the contextual factors more specific to the socio-historical background of this New England trial. This study’s analysis of the court record reveals that the use of speech acts, the operation of Gricean maxims, and the use of face-aggravating strategies are motivated by issues to do with power and the conflicting religious belief-systems of the interacting parties. The study also demonstrates that due to the conflictive nature of the trial, the intended meaning these usages conveyed was typically disposed of by the interactor through the use of a range of pragmatic strategies depending on the role and aims of the particular participant. Thus this study’s investigation of the court record contributes with yet another snippet of language use in the historical courtroom, which is distinct, but still an integral part of seventeenth-century trial discourse.

Item Type: Thesis (MRes)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: historical pragmatics, courtroom discourse, speech acts, Gricean maxims, notions of (im)politeness
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Ms Vaia Vanessa Zidros
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6410
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 09:13
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2015 10:56

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