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'Is That What We're Here about?': A Lawyer's Use of Impression Management in a Closing Argument at Trial

by P. Hobbs
Discourse & Society ()

Abstract

Although lawyers’ courtroom language has been the subject of sociolinguistic research, most of this research has focused on the questioning of witnesses; thus few studies have examined the processes by which lawyers’ interpretations of the evidence are presented to the jury. This article illustrates lawyers’ use of impression management in their opening statements and closing arguments to construct a shared identity with jurors, in order to persuade them to affiliate with the lawyer’s point of view. Through the analysis of a segment of a prosecutor’s rebuttal argument in a criminal trial, this article demonstrates how a Black attorney addressing a predominantly Black jury uses the stylistic and rhetorical dimensions of African American vernacular English (AAVE) to construct this shared identity.

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