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‘She had it coming?’: An experimental study of text interpretation in a police classroom setting

  • Sofia Ask (a1)


The aim of this study is to investigate how modifications of reporting verbs, modality, style and use of quotation marks in an authentic police report can lead to different interpretations by two groups of trainee police officers. Data was collected through an experiment in a classroom setting, where police trainees discussed two versions of the same police report in focus group discussions. The trainees’ statements were categorised into three themes: impression of the victim, impression of the accused, and assessment of the situation's severity. The results show that modifications such as formal or informal choice of words and the use of scare quotes proved to be influential linguistic modifications. In contrast, variation of reporting verbs and modality appeared less significant. The two versions of the text created different impressions of both the victim and the accused, and the interpretations of the severity of the situation depicted in the text varied between the two trainee groups. This highlights the importance of further study of the linguistic constructions of victims and perpetrators in police texts, in order to ensure credibility and equality before the law.

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Nordic Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0332-5865
  • EISSN: 1502-4717
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