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Functions of Transmodal Metalanguage for Collaborative Writing in Police-Witness Interviews

Functions of Transmodal Metalanguage for Collaborative Writing in Police-Witness Interviews

Chapter:
(p.299) Chapter Fourteen Functions of Transmodal Metalanguage for Collaborative Writing in Police-Witness Interviews
Source:
The Discourse of Police Interviews
Author(s):
Frances Rock
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226647821.003.0014

This chapter examines a police officer’s use of metalanguage in the course of taking witness statements. This use of metalanguage emerges as a concerted and creative part of collaborative writing practices in the statement-taking task. Through metalanguage, the officer is able to: organize and position the interactional activity; attend to the witness’ interpersonal needs; justify textual work and intervention; fulfill legal objectives and facilitate the writing process. The chapter considers how these functions are accomplished and how they are integrated into the wider literacy event of interview through negotiation between police officer and witness. The metalanguage examined in this paper is described as transmodal in that it mediates between modalities. The study of such metalanguage provides a window into processes of textual transformation in institutional contexts and accordingly offers new ways to understand them. Sense-making in police interviews entails telling, listening and scribing framed by legal norms and the social practices of police writing and realized through co-creation of written text. This chapter argues that use of metalanguage enables witnesses to become informed about what is being written in the statement and why, in real-time and, accordingly, to become relatively actively involved in the text creation process.

Keywords:   metalanguage, transmodal, modalities, textual transformation, witness statements, written text

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