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Defendant’s Interpretation of Encouragement in Court Proceedings

Mar 14, 2023 | 0 comments

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Mar 14, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


Focus of the Article

The purpose of this article is to show the interpretation of words by the participants in different kinds of contexts. To be precise the article shows the findings of a study about defendant’s interpretations of encouragement in Court during judicial proceedings. Judges and prosecutor have their strategies of maintaining neutral tone during trial. The question that this article addresses is how the defendants interpret these expressions of encouragement (Adelsward, 1989, pp.741-742). What is interesting about the objectives of this article is the fact that the interpretations of the judge’s expressions might be different from they actually mean. A person might expect that a defendant will appreciate the encouraging words and take them positively.

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According to the study, it is so surprising that most of the defendants view the positive evaluation of the judges as sarcasm and mockery. What also catches my attention on this article is how the explanation of utterances is interpreted depending on the context. For instance, if a friend gives positive compliments to a person, it will be highly appreciated but the case will be different when it comes to a trial. Captivating the most is the fact that the social status of a person can result to different interpretation of the judges and prosecutor’s positive expressions. A defendant who feels inferior will not be happy with smiles and laughter from the prosecutor which are as a result of the Judges positive attitudes.

Summary of the Article

It is observed that during petty crime trials in Sweden, judge and prosecutors do not use persuasive words or provoke emotions using their words during proceedings. These trials are mostly characterized by how non-partisan their words are. This point is illustrated using an example where by a prosecutor tries to dig into details of what really transpired after the defendant left the crime scene. It is observed that the prosecutor’s tone of voice during questioning has no irony or emotions and it is neutral throughout (Adelsward, 1989, p.742).

However it is found out that the defendants often see this see this as a punishment. As much as the judge’s aim is not to use the judicial process as means of punishing the defendant, the defendant normally feel intimidated and degraded and views the judge’s attitude as sarcasm. This generally means that how the situation seems on the surface is totally opposite of how things are underneath. The atmosphere during proceedings sometimes changes and the underlying emotions surfaces.

This is a strategy that the judge and prosecutor use to reduce the social distance and for the respect of the defendant’s integrity. The strategy used is known as negative politeness. By using this strategy the judge and prosecutor aim to get as much information as possible from the defendant without provoking any strong emotions. The interpretation of the judge’s politeness by the defendants varies according to their social class. The defendants who are first time offenders and are in a stable employment viewed the judges attitude as positive politeness while those who are unemployed and have been in contact with the law before view the judges politeness as sarcasm (Adelsward, 1989, p.744). This is further explained using an example of a middle aged defendant who is accused of fraud. The prosecutor outlines the taxes that have not been deducted and the tax evasion is calculated. He also points out that it is due to the defendant negligence that the taxes were not properly deducted. When the defendant was interviewed after the trials, he said that he did not expect the prosecutor to be sympathetic.

In another evidence of the defendant interpretation is when the judge and prosecutor during a trial, encourage a young defendant who was charged with petty theft. The defendant did not take positively the comments uttered and thought that he will be put in custody after all. This is followed by two more examples that further show that the positive politeness of the judge and the prosecutor is negatively interpreted by the defendants. It is not viewed as encouragement but degradation, sarcasm and mockery.

The author concludes with the remarks that the distribution of power in a trial is uneven hence the encouragements which are harmless utterances from the judge are viewed as sarcasm by the defendant. An observer who is on a neutral level may interpret the comments as they seem but mean something different to a person who feels inferior.

Understanding of Communicative Expertise

Communication is very crucial in every aspect of life. Communication can lead to agreement or disagreement according to how the information has been past and in which context. Information passed can be interpreted differently and in various ways such as in graphic representations, photographs, diagram illustrations and words. Linguists use written sentence in analyzing literacy (Goodwin, 1994, p.611). When it comes to human interaction, what someone utters creates an atmosphere where by a participant will interpret in a manner that will analyze what happens next. For instance in trial no.16 the defendant thought that the next move was to be taken to custody after the judge’s utterances.

Words uttered do not necessarily mean exactly what they are believed to. This statement can be backed up by Goodwin’s article (1994) when a video tape showed four policemen beating a motorist. The policemen were put on trial but later on acquitted of all charges (Goodwin, 1994, p.615). This was because the defendants’ lawyer argued that the tape did not speak for itself and needed interpretation.

Different professions have different ways of interacting with the participants. For example in a healthcare context, a doctor is supposed t communicate to a patient in a certain way in order to get to know how the patient is feeling, so as to make the correct diagnosis (Candlin, 2000, p.4). In Adelsward article, judges also have their strategies of evaluation in order to get as much information as possible from the defendant.


I have selected a learning institution whereby in this case it is an elementary school. In such a workplace, the pupil is at the center of the education providing institute. In such an environment there is different partnership where there is need to achieve quality communication. The partnership can be between teachers, students, parents and supporting staff. Communication plays a very vital role in a school set up. This is because learning is the main agenda of a school and this can be achieved through effective communication. As much as teachers should maintain the professional talk there are instances where they have to apply different strategies in order to pass information easily in an academic context.

Reasons for Selecting a Learning Institution

As stated earlier, communication is very important whether it is between teacher to student, student to student, teacher to parent, parent to admin or teacher to teacher. I have selected such a workplace because the success of the students entirely depends on how information is passed to them whether in the academic direction or the social angle. Success of a learning institution also depends on the interaction of staff members (teachers and administration) and parents in a learning context with the main interests of the students at heart (Andrade, 2015, p.1). I have also selected this set up because it offers different sites where linguistic application is crucial.

Ideas from the Literature

In Candlin’s article, the point of language and interaction is describing using the experiences of patients after their visits to the doctor. From the example it is evident there is an issue on how the doctors and patients interact in terms of the language they use, “what is the matter with you?” the doctor asks the patient. In a school set up, a teacher is required to use language according to the age group and level of the students to obtain a mutual understanding. How a teacher interacts with a kindergarten child should be different on the language used to communicate to a sixth grader. Just as doctors interact with their patients in order to know what and where the problem is, the same way teachers interact with students by using two way communications. They mostly rely on the feedback from the students to gauge their understanding of what is being taught (Prozesky, 2000, p.44).

Comparing the interpretation of the paints in Candlin’s article, how students and parents interpret the information given by the teachers or administration is very important because some information can be easily miss interpreted which can lead to serious issues within the institution. Candlin (2000, p.10) pointed out that critical moment is the greatest challenge in communicative expertise within a given context. The example given in the article is when breaking bad news for instance disclosing the HIV status of a patient (Candlin and Candlin, 2003, p.138).

Occurrence of Crucial Sites

Crucial sites are the multiplicity of contexts within a given organization or a workplace (Candlin, 2000, p.9). In this case the crucial are within the learning institution contexts. They include academic interactions which mostly happen in classes, during parents and administration meetings, during co-curricular activities and during administration and staff meetings. These crucial sites occur for all participants involved including teachers, students, parents and the administration. There are critical moments in these crucial sites for instance when the administration passes information to a parents concerning suspension of their child due to indiscipline cases. Another example of a critical moment in these crucial sites is when a teacher administers punishment to a student following petty indiscipline issues in class such as noise making. In the area of co-curricular activities the P.E teacher should give clear instructions in order to avoid misinterpretation that can lead to injuries.

Relevance of the Crucial Sites

The stated sites are very crucial when it comes to communication in terms of language usage and interaction. In the site of academic interaction in classrooms, it is an important context to the teacher and the student because this is where the main agenda of instilling knowledge takes place. The theory aspect of learning is passed during this interaction which can be later on applied practically outside the classroom (Cheng, 1997, pp.58-63). During parents and administration meeting-which also involve teachers- the parents are updated on the progress of their children in all areas involving learning. This is important because involving parents is very beneficial in the educational process (Clayton, 2017, p.1). Parents need to be part of their children’s educational journey and deserve to be updated on their children’s success, struggles and interests. This can be made possible through effective communication which motivates parents to play a bigger role in their children learning process.

Co- curricular activities are part of the learning process. Physical activities are very important because they boost brain functioning which help children to be actively involved in class work. This is one of the sites where effective communication is key. For example when a swimming instructor is giving instructions about diving, if clear and understandable instructions are not given, an injury might occur. In order to avoid this and observe safety, effective communication should be observed and students should be able to understand the language used. Finally, in the administration and teachers interactions, the administration passes information to motivate and also remind the staff of their goal and mission. Once this information is clear, the success of the students and the institution will be easily achieved. On the other hand the staff can also relay information on the challenges and obstacles they are facing that may hinder attaining the set goals.

Understanding of Communicative Expertise

Doing this description has positively affected my understanding of communicative expertise. Now I can confidently admit that effective communication is key in executing any professional duties. An expert with experience may be excellent at his/her work but without applying the effective ways of communicating to a client, there will definitely be a problem. What I have discovered in this descriptive section is that communication is two way, people should have mutual understanding in a given context. Another factor that improves communication is using appropriate words according to the context of interactions. This generally means that the communication between the participants should be a professional talk but at the same time simplified terms should be used for easier understanding.


Adelsward, V. (1989). Defendants Interpretation of Encouragements in Court. journal of pragmatics, 13, pp.741-749.

Andrade, D. (2015). The Importance of Communication in Education. [online] Tech Learning. Available at: https://www.techlearning.com/tl-advisor-blog/8716 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2018].

Candlin, C. (2000). The Cardiff Lecture.

Candlin, C. and Candlin, S. (2003). Healthcare Communication: A Problematic site for Applied Linguistics Research. Applied Linguistics, 23, pp.134 – 154.

Cheng, L. (1997). Diversity: Challenges and Implications for Assessment. Journal of Children’s Communication Development, 19(1), pp.55-62.

Clayton, K. (2017). Why Effective Communication in Schools is important. [online] Parentapps.co.uk. Available at: https://parentapps.co.uk/effective-communication-schools-important/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2018].

Goodwin, C. (1994). Professional Vision. American Anthropological Association, 96(3), pp.606-633.

Prozesky, D. (2000). Communication and Effective Teaching. Community Eye Health, 13(35), pp.44- 45.


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