Interactive patterns of the opening statement in criminal trials: A historical perspective

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This study examines the discursive history and interactive aspects of the opening statement in Anglo-American courts. Informed by the concepts of stance and engagement, the study explicates the process of conceptual interaction which turns the jurors into co-constructors of the discourse, thereby making the opening statement fictively dialogic. Drawing upon 51 opening statements as recorded in Proceedings of the Old Bailey, between 1759 and 1789, the qualitative and quantitative analysis reveals that interactive devices are an integral part of the genre, and that pronouns appear to occur most frequently, followed by the lawyers' use of attitude markers, questions, and reported discourse, respectively. With these devices, the lawyers are likely to be able to prime the jury into viewing the events and participants in a given direction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-364
Number of pages18
JournalDiscourse Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014 Jun


  • Engagement
  • Old Bailey Proceedings
  • historical courtroom discourse
  • metadiscourse
  • opening statement
  • stance


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