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© The Author(s) 2018. While courtroom examinations are often recognized as a distinct speech-exchange system, little is known about how participants do an examination beyond its unique turn-taking system. This article attempts to shed some light on this issue by studying the question design during the direct examination in an American criminal court case using Conversation Analysis. It shows that attorneys use different question forms compared to casual conversation: declaratives are far less prevalent and questions are often designed as requests for action. In addition, attorneys make use of forms that are not found in other types of interaction, such as the tag (is that) correct. The way in which attorneys design their questions additionally shows that the rules of the courtroom have procedural consequences for how the interaction is done. But these rules have to be enacted, and it is in their violation that participants bring about categories such as leading questions.

Original publication




Journal article


Discourse Studies

Publication Date





340 - 357