Suspects’ Narrative Discourse and Identity Construction in Police Investigative Interviews



This study, using conversation analysis as the research methodology, probes into the relationship between suspects’ narrative discourse and identity construction in Chinese police investigative interviews. It is found that suspects may employ different expressions to construct various identities in the interaction. Hedging expressions in their narration depict their identity as narrators and through the use of direct speech, they could construct different identities of both themselves and other characters involved in the crime events. In the responsive turns, they adopt various language practices to normalize their illegal behaviors, attribute the blame to the victims involved in the case or mitigate the losses caused by their illegal behaviors.


Suspects; Narrative discourse; Identity construction; Police investigative interviews

Full Text:



Ainsworth, S., & Hardy, C. (2004). Discourse and identities. In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick & Putnam, L. (Eds.), The sage handbook of organizational discourse (pp.153-174). Sage Publications.

Antaki, C., & Stokoe, E. (2017). When police treat straight forward answers as uncooperative. Journal of Pragmatics, 117, 1-15.

Archakis, A., & Tsakona, V. (2012). The narrative construction of identities in critical education. Palgrave Macamillan.

Bamberg, M. (2005). Narrative discourse and identities. In J. C. Meister, T. Kindt & W. Schernus (Eds.), Narratology beyond literary criticism (pp.213-237). Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. (2006). Discourse and identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Berger, E., & Doehler, S.P. (2015). Direct reported speech in storytellings: Enacting and negotiating epistemic entitlements. Text & Talk, 35 (6), 789-813.

Blas Arroyo, J. L. (2010). Interpersonal issues in political discourse. In M. A. Locher & S. L. Graham (Eds.), Interpersonal pragmatics (pp.405-434). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Butler, C.W. (2010). Membership-in-action: Operative identities in a family meal. Journal of Pragmatics, 42 (9), 2462-2474.

Caffi, C. (1999). On mitigation. Journal of Pragmatics, 31(7), 881-909.

Cai, L.Q., & Dai, W. D. (2002). On the possibility of information precision in hedges,

Cerovic, M. (2016). When suspects ask questions: Rhetorical questions as a challenging device. Journal of Pragmatics, 105, 18-38.

Chen, X. R. (2013). Pragmatic identity: Dynamic choice and discursive construction. Foreign Languages Research, (4), 27-32.

Cui, F. J. (2012). Adaptibility of hedges in courtroom discourse. Shandong Foreign Languages Teaching, (4), 42-48.

De Fina, A. (2003). Identity in narrative: A study of immigrant discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Deng, J. G., & Bian, Y. L. (2010). On the application of precise language and fuzzy language in investigative interrogation. Legal System and Society, (7-1), 137.

Deng, Z. Y. (2012). Narrative, narrative paradigm and narrative rationality----A research on narrative from the rhetorical perspective. Foreign Language Education, (4), 37-41.

Drew, p.(2005). Conversation analysis. In K. L. Fitch & R. E. Sanders (Eds.), Handbook of language and social interaction (pp.71-102). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Drew, p.(2013). Turn design. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (Eds.), Handbook of conversation analysis (pp.131-149). Chichester:Wiley-Blackwell.

Evans, A. D., Roberts, K. P., Pricec, H. L., & Stefek, C. P. (2010). The use of paraphrasing in investigative interviews. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34, 585-592.

Foreign Languages and Their Teaching, (8), 1-6.

Gaines, p.(2011). The multifunctionality of discourse operator Okay: Evidence from a police interview. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 3291-3315.

Gao, p.P. (2007). The special role of fuzzy language in the interrogation of cases with insufficient evidence. Journal of People’s Security University of China (Social Sciences Edition), (1), 154-157.

Gergen, K. J. (2009). An invitation to social construction (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Gordon, N. J., & Fleisher, W. L. (2011). Effective interviewing and interrogation techniques. Academic Press.

Griswold, O. (2016). Center stage: direct and indirect reported speech in conversational storytelling. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 20(1), 73-90.

Heydon, G. (2005). The language of police interviewing: A critical analysis. Houndmills & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Huang, p.(2010a). A study of exchange structure in Chinese police interrogation discourse. Foreign Language Research, (4), 82-86.

Huang, p.(2010b). Pragmatic study of Chinese police interrogation discourse. Central China Normal University.

Huang, p.(2014). Choices of speech acts in question-answer interaction—Pragmatic study of police-suspect interview IV. Foreign Language Research, (1), 69-77.

Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. Lerner. (Ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation (pp.13-31). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Johnson, A., & Newbury, p.(2006). Suspects’ resistance to constraining and coercive questioning strategies in the police interview. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 13 (2), 213-240.

Lingwood, J., & Bull, R. (2013). Interviewing young adolescent suspects: When to reveal incriminating information? The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context, 5, 141-146.

Liu, Y. (2008).On the choice and adaptibility of interrogation discourse. Legal System and Society. (09), 200.

Locher, M. A., & Graham, S. L. (2010). Introduction to interpersonal pragmatics. In M. A. Locher & S. L. Graham (Eds.), Interpersonal pragmatics (pp.1-13). Berlin, New York : Mouton de Gruyter.

Lv, R. P. (2014). Interrogation strategies of duty crime cases: Suspects’ body language and microexpressions. Journal of Henan Police College, (2), 87-92.

Martinovski, B. (2006). A framework for the analysis of mitigation in courts: Toward a theory of mitigation. Journal of Pragmatics, 38, 2065-2086.

Mason, M., & Rock, F. (Eds.). (2020). The discourse of police interviews. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Niemela, M. (2005). Voiced direct reported speech in conversational storytelling: Sequential patterns of stance taking. SKY Journal of Linguistics, 18, 197-221.

Piotti, S. R. (2014). I think this could possibly be …: An appreciation of hedging strategies in English. Nuova Secondaria, 106-113.

Stokoe, E. (2009). ‘‘For the benefit of the tape’’: Formulating embodied conduct in designedly uni-modal recorded police–suspect interrogations. Journal of Pragmatics, 41, 1887-1904.

Stokoe, E., & Edwards, D. (2010). Asking ostensibly silly questions in police-suspect interrogations. In A. F. Freed & S. Ehrlich (Eds.), “Why do you ask?”---The function of questions in institutional discourse (pp.108-132). Oxford University Press.

St-Yves, M. (2006a). Confessions by sex offenders, In T. Williamson (Ed.), Investigative interviewing: Rights, research and regulation (pp.107-122). Willan Publishing.

Sun, X. L., & Wang, X. (2014). Research on suspects’ body language in investigative interrogations. Journal of Hubei University of Police, (10), 34-36.

Thornborrow, J., & Coates, J. (2005). The sociolinguistics of narrative: identity, performance, culture. In J. Thornborrow and J. Coates (Eds.), The sociolinguistics of narrative (pp.1-16). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Tracy, K., & Robles, J. S. (2013). Everyday talk: Building and reflecting identities. The Guilford Press.New York, London.

Ye, N. (2010). A study of police interrogation: A holistic genre perspective. Zhejiang University.

Yuan, Z. M.(2016). Defining identity: Problems and resolutions. Foreign Language Education, (4), 20-23.

Zeng, F. J. (2011). A critical analysis of police interrogation discourse. China University of Political Science and Law.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 Author(s)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


  • How to do online submission to another Journal?
  • If you have already registered in Journal A, then how can you submit another article to Journal B? It takes two steps to make it happen:

1. Register yourself in Journal B as an Author

  • Find the journal you want to submit to in CATEGORIES, click on “VIEW JOURNAL”, “Online Submissions”, “GO TO LOGIN” and “Edit My Profile”. Check “Author” on the “Edit Profile” page, then “Save”.

2. Submission

Online Submission

  • Go to “User Home”, and click on “Author” under the name of Journal B. You may start a New Submission by clicking on “CLICK HERE”.
  • We only use four mailboxes as follows to deal with issues about paper acceptance, payment and submission of electronic versions of our journals to databases:;;;

 Articles published in Canadian Social Science are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY).


Canadian Social Science Editorial Office

Address: 1020 Bouvier Street, Suite 400, Quebec City, Quebec, G2K 0K9, Canada.
Telephone: 1-514-558 6138 
Website: Http://; Http://;

Copyright © Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture