A Study on Vagueness Used by the Defendant in Courtroom Discourse from the Perspective of Adaptation Theory

Mengna LiU


Court discourse is a typical legal language, recently arousing scholars’ interest. In the courtroom discourse, many language strategies would be applied in this special setting out of various purposes and vagueness is one of them. With the transcripts from the Jodi Arias’ murder case as the database, this paper investigates vagueness in the American courtroom from the perspective of adaptation theory, paying specific attention to the defendant. Two conclusions are reached: (1) the defendant uses vagueness commonly to adapt to the mental world, the social world and the physical world. As to the mental world, it can be divided into speaker-directed adaptation and hearer-directed adaptation. As to the social world, the study analyzes how the defendant adapts to the legal obligation. Defendant also adapts to the physical world in courtroom settings. (2) the study finds four pragmatic functions of vagueness used by the defendant in the courtroom discourse, they are 1) increasing the credibility of utterance; 2) avoiding absolute utterance; 3) providing appropriate information; 4) Being polite.


Vagueness; Adaptation theory; Courtroom discourse; Jodi Arias’ murder case

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/11923


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