Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Linguistics, Applied

First Advisor

Avary Carhill-Poza

Second Advisor

Pepi Leistyna

Third Advisor

Panayota Gounari


This study examines the relationship between high capital discourses and witness representation in court trials. The research foci were courtrooms as cultural institutions that are reproduced, lawyer control of witness narrative and identity, and the overlap of high capital discourses with courtroom discourse. Critical Discourse Analysis was used as a methodology to study discursive techniques lawyers use in witness examinations. The features studied were interrogative structures, lexical choices, and prosody. Excerpts from witness examination transcriptions provide examples for the use of these in power struggles between lawyers and witnesses. Examinations of two witnesses are compared to highlight differentials in cultural capital in the courtroom. Courtrooms reproduce wider societal inequalities between speakers of different discourses by constructing witnesses from higher capital discourses as in-group with court authority figures. Lawyers tap into cultural assumptions about what types of people are believable or culpable to direct witness narrative and identity according to norms in agreement with judge and jury expectations to win cases.


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