The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

Current Issue

Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21

[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21, No. 0, pp.359-374
Abbreviation: KASELL
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Received 08 Mar 2021 Revised 15 Apr 2021 Accepted 25 Apr 2021

The Multiplicity of Self of Capital Trial Lawyers
Krisda Chaemsaithong
Professor, Dept. of English, Hanyang University (

© 2021 KASELL All rights reserved
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Funding Information ▼


Underpinned by Goffman’s concept of footing (1981), this study focuses on deconstructing the kinds of performance in which capital trial lawyers are engaged, when persuading the jurors to kill or spare the defendant on trial. Indexical cues are identified that instantiate the shifts into different speaking roles. The findings suggest that this genre is in fact highly complex and encompasses three layered speaking selves: storyteller, interlocutor, and animator, each of which is foregrounded at different relevant points. In effect, lawyers can emphasize favorable “facts” while silencing others through selective storytelling, fill in evidentiary gaps with inferences, guide the jurors’ interpretation as their active interlocutor, and endorse or invalidate an argument through quotations.

Keywords: alignment, capital trial, footing, speaking role, performance


This work was supported by funding from Hanyang University (HY-2020).

The author sincerely thanks the reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

1. Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. Discourse in the novel. In M. M. Bakhtin, ed., The Dialogic Imagination. Four essays, 259–422. Austin: University of Texas Press.
2. Burt, M. 2009. The importance of storytelling at all stages of a capital case. UMKC Law Review 77, 877–910.
3. Carretero, M. 2004. Explorations on the use of English will/be going to contrasted with Spanish future indicative ir a. In R. Facchinetti and F. Palmer, eds., English Modality in Perspective: Genre Analysis and Contrastive Studies, 205–230. Bern: Peter Lang.
4. Chaemsaithong, K. 2012a. Performing self on the witness stand: Stance and relational work in expert witness testimony. Discourse & Society 23, 465–486.
5. Chaemsaithong, K. 2012b. Beyond questions and answers: Strategic use of multiple identities in the historical courtroom. In I. Hegedüs and A. Fodor, eds., English Historical Linguistics 2010, 349–368. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
6. Chaemsaithong, K. and Y. Kim. 2018. From narration to argumentation: Intertextuality in two courtroom genres. Lingua 203, 36-50.
7. Chatman, S. 1978. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell.
8. Conley, R. 2016. Confronting the Death Penalty: How Language Influences Jurors in Capital Cases. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
9. Cotterill, J. 2003. Language and Power in Court: A Linguistic Analysis of the O.J. Simpson Trial. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
10. Duszak, A. (Ed.). 2002. Us and Others: Social Identities across Languages, Discourses and Cultures. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
11. Fuller, J. 1993. Hearing between the lines: Style switching in a courtroom setting. Pragmatics 3, 29-43.
12. Goffman, E. 1981. Footing. In E. Goffman, ed., Forms of Talk, 124–159. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
13. Hobbs, P. 2003. “Is that what we’re here about?”: A lawyer’s use of impression management in a closing argument at trial. Discourse & Society 14, 273–290.
14. Hobbs, P. 2008. “It’s not what you say but how you say it”: The role of personality and identity in trial success. Critical Discourse Studies 5, 231–248.
15. Jakobson, R. 1971. Shifters, verbal categories, and the Russian verb. In R. Jakobson, ed., Selected Writings, Vol. 2, 130–147. The Hague: Mouton.
16. Kitagawa, C. and A. Lehrer. 1990. Impersonal uses of personal pronouns. Journal of Pragmatics 14, 739–759.
17. Labov, W. 1997. Some further steps in narrative analysis. Journal of Narrative and Life History 7, 395–415
18. Levinson, S. 1988. Putting linguistics on a proper footing. In P. Drew and A. Wootton, eds., Erving Goffman: Exploring the Interaction Order, 161–227. Boston: Northeastern University.
19. Matoesian, G. 1999. The grammaticalization of participant roles in the constitution of expert identity. Language in Society 28, 491–521.
20. Pennington, N. and R. Hastie. 1991. A cognitive theory of juror decision making: The story model. Cordoza Law Review 13, 519–557.
21. Powell, G. 2001. Opening statements: The art of storytelling. Stetson Law Review 31, 89-104.
22. Pyykko, R. 2002. Who is “us” in Russian political discourse. In A. Duszak, ed., Us and Others, 233–248. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
23. Rosulek, L. 2010. Legitimation and the heteroglossic nature of closing arguments. In D. Schiffrin, A. de Fina and A. Nylund, eds., Telling Stories: Language, Narrative, and Social Life, 218–230. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.
24. Salkie, R. 2010. Will: tense or modal or both? English Language and Linguistics 14, 187–215.
25. Siewierska, A. 2004. Person. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
26. Silverstein, M. 1985. On the pragmatic “poetry” of prose. In D. Schiffrin, ed., Meaning, Form, and Use in Context: Linguistic Applications, 181–199. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
27. Spiecker, S. and D. Worthington. 2003. The influence of opening statement/closing argument organizational strategy on juror verdict and damage awards. Law and Human Behavior 27, 437–456.
28. Tannen, D. 2007. Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue and Imagery in Conversational Discourse (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
29. Wortham, S. 1996. Mapping participant deictics: A technique for discovering speaker’s footing. Journal of Pragmatics 25, 331–348.
30. Wortham, S. and M. Locher. 1996. Voicing on the news: An analytic technique for studying media bias. Text 16, 557–585.