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From speech role to social role: Judge’s negotiating and controlling in criminal trials in China

Issue: Vol 12 No. 2-3 (2016) Special Issue: Appliable Linguistics and Legal Discourse

Journal: Linguistics and the Human Sciences

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/lhs.36989


In this paper we explore judge's social roles in criminal trials in China based on the speech roles assigned to them when they interact with other parties. negotiation, a system in Martin's discourse semantics for conversational analysis, is the descriptive framework used in this study. The analysis indicates that most of the judge's moves are informative, however, they are endowed with performative effect caused by the highly institutionalized context. Judge's discourse in Chinese courtroom is characterized by what is known as 'linguistic service', discursively reflected as the conflation of knowledge move and action move. When the conflation is related to the trial's staging structures, it predicts discourse within other fields, involving legal rights or responsibilities, legal facts, personal information, among others. In addition to move conflation, another two features are noted in judge's discourse - move change and move ellipsis. We conclude that the exchange patterns in judge's discourse suggest three types of social role taken by the judge in criminal courts in China: courtroom texturing, discourse controlling and knowledge building.

Author: Zhang Ranran

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