Grice's cooperative principle in the legal system Essay

Grice's cooperative principle in the legal system Essay

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H. P. Grice, in his theory of conversational implicature, demonstrated the heavy reliance of linguistic communication on contextual cues (Grice, 1975). In “Logic and Conversation” (1975), he states, “Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.” This Cooperative Principle (CP) asserts that participants in a conversation will tailor their contributions to the conversation to further its purpose. Most conversations do follow the cooperative principle in that the speaker wants to convey her intention and the listener wants to understand the speaker’s intention. Situations in which the cooperative principle is not in place are more unusual or contrived. The legal system in the United States can create situations in which participants of a conversation are not operating under the CP. While the court’s purpose is ostensibly to discover truth and serve justice, the prosecution and defense are clearly at odds in the purpose of their utterances. In this essay, I will explore ways in which lawyers, witnesses, law enforcement officials and suspects exploit the tension between the artificial environment of the courtroom with its strictly defined rules and the expected norms of conversation for their own ends.
The first example in which attorneys and witnesses manipulate expectations is through implicature. Grice defined the concept of an “implicature” as something different from the literal meaning of the sentences uttered that occurs when participants of a conversation are observing the CP. Grice defined four basic rules falling under the Cooperative Principle:
1. Maxim of Quality – Be truthful
2. Maxim of Quan...

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Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and Conversation. In A. P. Martinich (Ed.). The Philosophy of Language (pp. 171-181). New York: Oxford University Press.

Searle, J. R. (1975). Indirect Speech Acts. In A. P. Martinich (Ed.). The Philosophy of Language (pp. 182-195). New York: Oxford University Press.

Shuy, R.W. (2005). Creating Language Crimes: How Law Enforcement Uses (and Misuses) Language. New York: Oxford University Press.

Shuy, R.W. (1993). Language Crimes: The Use and Abuse of Language Evidence in the Courtroom. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Solan, L. M. and Tiersma, P. M. (2005). “Consensual” Searches. Speaking of Crime: The Language of Criminal Justice (pp. 35-52). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tiersma, Peter. (1999). The Language of Perjury, Retrieved from

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