A2 English Language Coursework
Investigation: How and why are power differences established in police-suspect interactions through language use? Word Count; 2677
Equality is a fundamental element of the English legal system yet power disparities amongst those enforcing the law and those suspected of breakingoften apparent. With Brown and Levinson’s Power and Politeness theory assessing the significant contribution language strategies have in creating such differences I have chosen to analyse how language either instils or reduces power in police-suspect interactions. The opposingroles of the police have intrigued me as they must both control and cooperate to allow for extraction of information. I hope to establish which, if any, power and politeness strategies enable this. Police-suspect interactions exemplify how the choice of lexis, grammar and register is influenced by position and context. Such interactions therefore test Grice’s maxims, with the relationship between the flouting of maxims and the creation of unequal power being of great interest. Police must assess a situation, an individual, and their acts to establish the relevant use of language meaning that numerous language characteristics are evident in their speech. I will analyse how these create a successful interaction but also the necessary power and assertion. I hope my conclusion will be applicable to some of the many other imbalanced power interactions in society.
1: Establish how police and their suspects create and exhibit power differences in their interactions. 2: Identify the positions of both participants by researching the features of speech from the police officers and the suspect. 3: Look at how power and politeness theories can be used to investigate the relationship between police and suspect and the power differences between them.
Methodology and Background Reading
I am analysing primary data that I have transcribed from the Traffic Cops episode ‘In the Line of Duty’, accessed from YouTube. The clip highlights the stopping, searching, questioning and restraining a suspect and allowed me to transcribe 3.38 minutes of interaction. The participants were not recorded for the purpose of linguistic analysis and the interaction is evidently spontaneous meaning potential obfuscation is avoided. Therefore the possibility of demand characteristics is limited and a valid analysis is achievable. Furthermore the data allows me to access an otherwise inaccessible situation. Although originally intending to compare several police-suspect interactions the similarity throughout such interactions assured me that one clip is reasonably valid and reliable. The data also highlights various situations police may have to interact in, for instance questioning and restraining a suspect. Such variation of situations will aid my analysis of language strategies and assessment of when police are successful in enforcing power and when they are not. I will analyse my data qualitatively and quantitatively. Through quantitatively studying grammatical and syntactical features of speech I hope to establish the distribution of instilling power methods whilst testing the relevance of Fairclough’s Power and Language claims, in which syntactic power structures were identified. Here I will specifically focus on sentence lengths and functions, particularly the use of interrogatives. Analysing lexical and semantical features qualitatively will aid study of position and meaning of participant’s speech whilst aiming to establish whether the use complies with theories relating to power through detailed micro analysis. I will continually analyse Grice’s Cooperative Principle and Brown and Levinson’s ‘Power and Politeness’ theories to establish the relevance of theories in the creation of power in police-suspect interaction. The Gricean maxims of quality, quantity, relevance and manner are appropriate to syntax and lexical analysis as I hope to...
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