Legal-Lay Discourse

  • Chris Heffer


The underlying argument in this book is that there is a type of discourse found in jury trials — legal-lay discourse — which involves a complex dialogic play between two broad ways of making sense of the world: one based on the subjective reconstruction of personal experience; the other on detached analysis following logical principles. This chapter attempts to lay some of the foundations for building an understanding of the nature of this legal-lay discourse. The first half of the chapter argues for a legal-lay rather than simply legal discourse; the second half argues for its underlying cultural-cognitive modes of thought and shows how they might be manifested in discourse. The chapter begins by defining discourse as verbal communication. It then considers how discourse can become conventionalized into categories we describe in terms of register and genre. In an institutional context, these categories are professionally motivated and lead to genres such as case reports which are quite distinct from everyday genres. At the same time, though, in the context of jury trial, legal professionals come into contact with lay people lacking experience with legal genres. Since meaning derives primarily from the interaction between cognition and culture, we need to understand the basic cultural-cognitive modes which underlie the way lay and legal people are likely to think in the trial. We also need to consider how the conflicting modes might be manifested in discourse and how they relate to the notions of genre and style.


Legal Professional Folk Psychology Legal Discourse Jury Trial Minor Premise 
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Copyright information

© Chris Heffer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Heffer
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Language and Communication ResearchCardiff UniversityUK

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