Examination: a Comparison of the Turn-taking Organisations for Conversation and Examination

  • J. Maxwell Atkinson
  • Paul Drew
Part of the Oxford Socio-Legal Studies book series (OSLS)


It was noted in the last chapter that a number of sociological investigations of interaction in courts have made considerable use of the readily apparent differences between the kind of talk which occurs in courts and that which characterises ordinary conversation. The contrast between the two has been used to support the argument that certain conventions can be identified as central to conversation, which constitute ‘appropriate rules of behaviour’ — rules which court-room procedures violate (Emerson, 1969, p. 202). In so far as court procedures facilitate such techniques as not allowing witnesses to tell their stories in their own words, denying witnesses their usual rights to avoid discussing sensitive and possibly discrediting matters, and generally controlling the information on which a court’s decision is to be made, those procedures offend against the proprieties associated with normal interaction. On the other hand, the same contrast between talk in conversation and that in court-room interaction has been used by those who argue that the way in which talk is organised in courts is an important factor in ensuring the (reasonable) safety of the decisions of courts, by aiding the collection of relevant and impartial evidence and the assessment of its validity.1 Thus through a variety of inferences and criticisms concerning the management of cases in courts, we find common reliance on the distinctiveness of the character of the talk which occurs in court settings.


Adjacency Pair Answer Sequence Blame Ascription Speaker Change Current Speaker 
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Copyright information

© Paul Drew 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Maxwell Atkinson
    • 1
  • Paul Drew
    • 2
  1. 1.SSRC Centre for Socio-Legal StudiesWolfson CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of YorkUK

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