Edited by Dennis Kurzon and Barbara Kryk-Kastovsky
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 288] 2018
► pp. 133–156
Chapter 7. The nature of power and control in the interrogative patterns of selected Nigerian courtroom discourse
This study examines power relations in two different but interrelated courtroom trials within the Nigerian socio-judicial space. One reports barrister-questioning strategies in the course of legal proceedings concerning a land dispute, and the other focuses on two election petition tribunal trials involving various barrister-witness dialogues. This article highlights the way language is used as a symbol of power in the two courtroom dialogues. Moreover, it considers questioning procedures in conjunction with the forms of witnesses’ answers and how these reproduce the nature of power and control in this institutional setting. Drawing on pragmatics and insights from Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), we show that courtroom conventions as well as social circumstances impose some constraints on what is said and how it is said. Some insights might, thus, be gained as to the extent in which social and other extra-judicial circumstances may impact the strategy that witnesses adopt to tell their stories during interrogation.
The findings support the interplay between socio-[cultural] circumstances and legal considerations in some typical courtroom trials in Nigeria. It confirms the universality of legal proceedings, especially as regards some similarity in the various interrogative patterns that counsel deploy in courtroom encounters and how these show the asymmetric nature of legal discourse and the effect on text and talk of the participants.