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Forensic Linguistics

Narrating in Protective Order Interviews: A Source of Interactional Trouble. (2002). Shonna Trinch and Susan Berk-Seligson. Language in Society, (31): 383-418.

This study examines the types of interactional trouble that arise from narrative variation in institutional interviews. Specifically, we examine protective order interviews in which Latina women tell of domestic violence to paralegal interviewers charged with the duty of helping them obtain a protective order. Victims' narratives are shown to take different shapes, and paralegals respond to them in different pragmalinguistic ways, depending on how they diverge from institutional needs. The factors found most heavily to influence narrative outcomes are contextual ones, related to participant social roles, the type of communicative activity interlocutors perceive themselves to be engaged in, and their interactional goals. An additional finding is that when expectations of what constitutes appropriate speech behavior differ, the interlocutor holding greater institutional power will try to constrain the speech of the other, despite the fact that both appear to share an extralinguistic goal, in this case obtaining a protective order. (Narrative, interview, sociolegal, story, account, report, linear, generic, kernel, turn, gatekeeper)*

The pragmatic use of gender in Latina women's narratives of abuse. (2007). Shonna Trinch. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, (14)1:51-83.

This paper examines the way in which gender is constructed in narratives of abuse by U.S. Latina women and legal professionals within the U.S. legal context of the protective order application interview. Though traditional gender roles can be oppressive for men and women, the analysis undertaken here illustrates how Latina women pragmatically and linguistically utilize their language resources to perform some roles of traditional womanhood in order to free themselves from abusive relationships. Through their strategic use of referential and non-referential linguistic devices, these Latinas speak up about the violence in their lives. They also manage to speak against the strict victim-identity the U.S. legal system tries to impose on them by performing as good mothers, good wives and good citizens.

Disappearing Discourse: Performative Texts and Identity in Legal Contexts. Shonna Trinch. (2010). Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 7(2–3):207–229.

This article examines how survivors of domestic violence and the institutional authorities to whom they turn for assistance represent verbal aggression in direct quotations and indirect reported speech in legal testimony. Using the theoretical framework proposed by Briggs and Bauman (1992), I suggest that direct quotations and reported speech serve to manage intertextual relationships between (1) the event reported (the alleged abusive incident), (2) the reporting event (the interview), and (3) the legal record in the form of an affidavit.
Alterations from direct to indirect reported speech are discussed in terms of their power to neutralize the client’s emotion and her evaluation of herself and the alleged abuser. In addition, interviewer-initiated changes from direct to indirect reports of verbal abuse create a text that helps to suggest that the battered woman can be a credible witness for herself and for the legal institutions that agree to advocate for her.

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