Chapter 7The interpreter-mediated police interview as argumentative discourse in context
This study focuses on the police interview with the purpose of showing that, when it is aimed at ascertaining and proving a suspect’s guilt, it has an essentially argumentative character, unfolding as a critical discussion, although this is not at first sight evident and has hardly been noticed in the literature so far, probably on account of the strict structural and procedural constraints to which this institutional discursive event is subject. The analysis takes as its starting point a case study, an interpreter-mediated interview involving an Italian suspect arrested in England, and reconstructs the argumentative discussion and the argumentation schemes deployed in it. It also examines the impact of the presence of the interpreter as a complicating factor that makes the nature of the interview as a critical discussion even more difficult to pinpoint, also because of the extreme fragmentation of dialogue associated with language mediation.The approach taken here for argument reconstruction and for the analysis and evaluation of the argumentative process in the police interview is essentially based on pragmadialectics (van Eemeren, Grootendorst, & Snoeck Henkemans, 2002; van Eemeren, & Grootendorst, 1995a, 1995b, 2004). The main standpoints and the difference of opinion that the interview is aimed at resolving are identified, then the focus shifts to the reconstruction of the argumentation structure of the event and the argumentation schemes deployed.By studying the use of argumentation in a highly regulated institutional context, where communication is subject to stringent restrictions, this study intends to contribute to the understanding of context-dependency in argumentative discourse, with special consideration for the meso-context (police investigative procedures, interpreter mediation) and the macro-context (the judicial legal process) and their consequences for the strategic maneuvering (cf. van Eemeren, 2011, p. 144). A further element explored is the marked power asymmetry between interlocutors inherent in the police interview as an activity type and the impact of interpreter mediation on the interaction, and in particular on the advancement of argumentation.
- 1.1The police interview
- 2.The case study
- 2.1The PC’s arguments
- 2.2The suspect’s critical questions and the outcome