Studia Linguistica Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis

The whole truth? Hypothetical questions and the (de)construction of knowledge in expert witness cross-examination

Data publikacji: 28.02.2023

Studia Linguistica Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, 2023, Volume 140, Issue 1, s. 67 - 93



Magdalena Szczyrbak
Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie, Polska, ul. Gołębia 24, 31-007 Kraków
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0182-0938 Orcid
Wszystkie publikacje autora →


This paper examines the relation between hypotheticals and epistemic stance in jury trials, and it reveals how hypothetically framed questions (HQs) are used in cross- examination to construct “the admissible truth” (Gutheil et al. 2003) which is then turned into evidence. It looks at a selection of interactional exchanges identified in the transcripts and video recordings which document two days of expert witness cross- examination in two high-profile criminal cases. In the study, two approaches to data analysis were combined: a bottom-up approach focusing on markers of HQs offering “points of entry” into discourse through a corpus-assisted analysis and a top-down approach looking at cross-examination as a complex communicative event, providing a more holistic view of the interactional context in which HQs are used. The paper explains the role which such questions play in the positioning of opposing knowledge claims, as well as discusses the effect they create in hostile interaction with expert witnesses. As is revealed, HQs are used to elicit the witness’s assessments of alternative scenarios of past events and causal links involving the facts of the case; to elicit the witness’s assessments of general hypothetical scenarios not involving the facts of the case, or to undermine the validity of the witness’s method of analysis. In sum, the paper explains how the use of HQs aids cross-examining attorneys in deconstructing unfavourable testimony and constructing the “legal truth” which supports their narrative.


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Informacje: Studia Linguistica Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, 2023, s. 67 - 93

Typ artykułu: Oryginalny artykuł naukowy



The whole truth? Hypothetical questions and the (de)construction of knowledge in expert witness cross-examination



Magdalena Szczyrbak
Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie, Polska, ul. Gołębia 24, 31-007 Kraków
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0182-0938 Orcid
Wszystkie publikacje autora →

Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie, Polska, ul. Gołębia 24, 31-007 Kraków

Publikacja: 28.02.2023

Status artykułu: Otwarte __T_UNLOCK

Licencja: CC BY  ikona licencji

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