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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 28, Issue 3


‘From where we're sat …’: Negotiating narrative transformation through interaction in police interviews with suspects

Alison Johnson
Published Online: 2008-05-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.016


This paper examines narratives told in police interviews through a case-study approach with three interviews from a small corpus of twenty. The interviews are conducted by different police interviewers in different parts of England. Narratives given by suspects in initial storytelling episodes are examined along with negotiating activity that develops from this start point. We see how lay narratives are transformed into institutionalized and evidential ones and how content is reshaped through negotiation that challenges and transforms narrative material. Negotiations over role, responsibility, resistance, participation, and assessment of evidential value of story elements occur. This activity sometimes recontextualizes (Sarangi 1998; Linell and Sarangi 1998; Iedema and Wodak 1999) and transforms the start-point narrative, giving it evidential value; that is, value in relation to institutional and generic goals of establishing the facts of an alleged crime, for use in any future trial. Transformation is therefore seen as a negotiated (re)construction and recontextualization of narrative detail, part of the (re)productive work of institutional talk that produces an altered reality and responsibility that orients to the institututional rather than individual perspective.

Keywords:: narrative; recontextualization; negotiation; assessment; institutional discourse; police interview

About the article

University of Leeds, School of English, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.

Published Online: 2008-05-27

Published in Print: 2008-05-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 28, Issue 3, Pages 327–349, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.016.

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