Publication details [#67362]

Johnson, Alison J. 2018. “How came you not to cry out?”: Pragmatic effects of negative questioning in child rape trials in the Old Bailey Proceedings 1730–1798. In Kryk-Kastovsky, Barbara and Dennis Kurzon, eds. Legal Pragmatics. (Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 288). John Benjamins. pp. 41–64.
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Article in book
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This study explores the representation of child rape victims through an examination of the pragmatic effects of negative questioning in eighteenth century trial records in the Old Bailey Proceedings (Hitchcock et al., 2012). We see how victim identities are linguistically constructed through methods of biased, stereotypical, and negative questioning of the rape allegation. Using a combined corpus-based, sociopragmatic, discourse-analytical approach, a corpus of 36 child rape trials has been collected from the larger online database, to explore how the choice of questioning constructs the defendant and the crime in benign ways and the victim in damaging ways. Analysis reveals how ideologies about rape were reproduced in the historical courtroom. Drawing on Reisigl and Wodak’s (2009) “discourse-historical approach” we are able to see how contextual factors, such as rape myths of the time (Simpson 1986), work in conjunction with negative questions to construct problematic victim identities. The legal-pragmatic effects of these questions and their underlying ideologies, which are both reflected and constituted in the social attitudes of the time, are amplified by the legal institution, contributing to a high proportion of not guilty verdicts and indictments to lesser charges. This research reflects on recent calls in the contemporary context for better victim treatment in general and more witness sensitivity in rape trials in particular.