24 Feb Dr Frances Rock

'I can't spell "tidying", suddenly': Displaying trajectories in police-witness interviews

This paper asks what an examination of the complex literacy event through which witness statements are produced in England and Wales can tell us about text trajectories. Witness interviews are tiny but influential segments of long trajectories from crimes to legal outcomes which echo throughout criminal law. Witness interviews archetypally consist of a trajectory from the witness of the crime, through a police officer and onto a written page. This paper examines how this ostensibly inevitable trajectory operates in practice. It identifies a distinctive way of traversing the trajectory through which the inner workings of the trajectory itself are put on display by the interviewing officer and through this display come to recursively influence the trajectory's onward travel. This display of the trajectory draws on four discursive means which I label, collectively, "frontstage entextualisation". I show that by recruiting frontstage entextualisation, the writing process comes to be used as a resource for both producing text and involving the witness in text production. The paper identifies three forms of activity which are accomplished through this recruitment: First, writing together through drafting aloud; secondly, tackling authorial challenges through written-ness and finally, facilitating participation though the artefactuality of writing.   


Dr Frances Rock is Reader in the Centre for Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University. Her work investigates the mediation of experiences in social worlds through language and other means in workplaces. Frances' publications include the monograph "Communicating Rights: the language of arrest and detention" (2007) and the co-edited collection "Legal-Lay Communication: Textual Travels in the Law" (2013). She is an Editor of the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law and Director of Cardiff's MA in Forensic Linguistics. She is working on the AHRC-funded multi-site research project entitled: 'Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities'. She is currently supervising doctoral work on topics including asylum processes, police community support officers, food, political discourse and hip hop.