This article analyses witnesses' expanded answers to yes/no questions during direct and cross examination. Among possible types of expansions, the analysis focuses on ‘narrative expansions’, i.e., on expansions that go beyond the framework of the question. In the trial context, witnesses' expansions serve as a defensive resource, by allowing the witness to create an additional interactional space that counterbalances the asymmetry in favor of legal professionals typical of trial interaction. The general aim of the article, which utilizes data taken from an Italian murder trial that took place in 1998, is to show how expansions accomplish this defensive task. The analysis focuses on the discursive devices witnesses adopt in order to accomplish their expansions after having produced the requested minimal answer: prosodic or verbal devices that can appear as associated or isolated. The analysis identifies two specific interactional functions of these expansions, that of further substantiating information provided in the first part of the answer, and that of contextualizing the information conveyed in the initial answer. Witnesses seem to make recourse to this tactic out of a desire to change or mitigate the version of facts conveyed by the questions.
© Walter de Gruyter