Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Center for the Study of Language and Society

Interpreters’ linguistic presence in police investigative interviews

Mittwoch, 16.10.2019, 12:15 Uhr

Das Forum Language and Society ist eine Reihe von Gastvorträgen zu Themen der Soziolinguistik. Doktorierende der GSAH können sich die Teilnahme als Zuhörende mit 0,25 ECTS pro Vortrag anrechnen lassen. MA Studierende der Soziolinguistik können sich nach Teilnahme an 6 Vorträgen 1 ECTS anrechnen lassen.

Veranstaltende: Forum Language and Society
Redner, Rednerin: Annina Heini (Aston University)
Datum: 16.10.2019
Uhrzeit: 12:15 - 13:45 Uhr
Ort: F-112
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Merkmale: Öffentlich

The legal system is a complex environment to navigate for most lay people, due to the police’s institutional advantage, which in turn is manifested to a significant extent in the police jargon and legal language used. For a suspect accused of a crime, these uneven power relations are even especially prevalent, and they can be further intensified if the suspect happens to be vulnerable. Vulnerable persons are juveniles, persons with mental deficiencies, as well as non-native English speakers and non-English speakers. Suspects considered linguistically vulnerable are entitled to have an interpreter present in the process of the recorded police interview (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Code C, para. 13.2). 

Police investigative interviews are per se linguistic events and this talk will thus examine interview transcripts based on genuine interviews conducted by police forces in England and Wales. Employing qualitative methods rooted in Conversation Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis, we will focus on the question of how the added (linguistic) presence of the interpreter shapes the interview interaction. 

One central element in every interview is the administration of the police caution (in the USA this has the better-known name ‘Miranda warning’). Hence one topic of this talk will be the administration and negotiation of the caution when an interpreter is present, keeping in mind the fact that many non-vulnerable adults struggle to comprehend the meaning and implications of the caution (Fenner et al.2002). Another focus will be on the conversational structure of the interview, and we will discuss how the floor is managed in this triangular interaction and what role micro-linguistic elements such as interruptions and overlaps play. 



Fenner, S., Gudjonsson, G. H. & Clare, I. C. H. (2002) Understanding the Current Police Caution (England and Wales) Among Suspects in Police Detention. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 12. 83-93. 

Great Britain. Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Code C: ‘Requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects not related to terrorism in police custody.’ Available from: Accessed 28/08/19.