Publication details [#57031]

Gregori-Signes, Carmen and Maria Milagros del Saz-Rubio. 2013. Facework strategies and the achievement of multiple goals in a court martial cross-examination in the film A Few Good Men. Language and Dialogue 3 (3) : 341–370.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


Following recent trends of research into television and film language that is being undertaken in various sub-disciplines of linguistics (Piazza et al. 2011), this article describes the nature of the interaction that takes place in the cross-examination of Colonel Jessep in the film ‘A Few Good Men’. The dialogue is from the last scene of the film and it exemplifies how the attorney manages to get the truth out of an uncooperative witness. It is not, however, only the outcome of the interaction itself that is of interest, but the process through which this is reached. By analyzing in detail the facework strategies enacted by the participants in the interaction towards themselves and others (Goffman 1967; Penman 1990), as well as the conspicuous intrusions of social factors, such as power and social status, into language structure (Brown and Levinson 1987, 179), this paper hopes to have proved that there is more to this type of discourse than the mere exchange of information (Lakoff 1989). This is partly due to its confrontational nature and to its being multifunctional with regard to goals. Underlying the analysis is the intention to illustrate how the careful and crafted use and manipulation of language is context- and goal(s)-dependent and lies at the heart of the negotiation of our communicative goals. The dialogue analyzed illustrates how a miscalculated assessment of one’s rights and obligations in a specific type of communicative activity (Levinson 1992) can prove fatal and negatively influence our own portrayal as (in)competent speakers.