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Courtroom Pragmatics: Analysis of Questions and Answers in the Tomb Robbery Papyri

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Blakesley, C. E.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool (2016)

This work looks at the legal texts known as the Tomb Robbery Papyri of the 19th and 20th Dynasties, with particular focus on the social and pragmatic power dynamic between the Tribunal and the Accused. The aim is to examine how far the strategies and wants of the Tribunal and Accused can be assessed through pragmatic theory and social status, and what effect these strategies and wants have on the discourse. This has been done through Politeness Theory, Face Threatening Acts, Questioning Strategy (Interrogatives/Speech Acts), Response Strategy, and similar courtroom situations such as the Early Modern English Courtroom. Upon examining these interactions, it becomes clear that not only did the Tribunal have a questioning strategy designed to elicit the most information through Face Threatening Acts and Impoliteness, but the response strategy of the Accused, despite their lack of legal representation, is, in some cases, a fairly substantial rebuttal for those in such a weak position. It becomes evident that while some Accused were prompted to provide long narrative answers of their misdeeds (often as a result of torture, though not without their own strategy of implicating others), or utilise what are termed in this thesis as “denial phrases”, such as bpy=i ptr (I did not see) or wA r=i wA r Ha=i (Far from me, far from my body), with their testimonies being relatively short and containing little information, others chose a more combative stance. These more combative responses are shown to have a greater number of back and forth responses between Tribunal and Accused, which often involve each discourse participant changing strategy so as to gain leverage, albeit temporarily, over the other. This type of answering strategy is also shown to contain more ‘focus constructions’ such as the Second Tense or Pseudo Cleft sentence, which demonstrate the Accused’s attempts to subvert the questioning narrative of the Tribunal and replace it with their own ‘truth’. This thesis demonstrates that there is more to the interactions between Tribunal and Accused in this corpus than simply well-ordered questions and responses.


 


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