The pragmatic functions of ‘respect’ in lawyers’ courtroom discourse: a case study of Brexit hearings




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This paper is a corpus-assisted discourse analysis of the use of the word respect by the main advocates in the High Court and Supreme Court hearings of R v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (the ‘Brexit case’). Courtroom discourse has received substantial research attention in pragmatics, and previous work has largely focused on notions of face and im/politeness exhibited in power-asymmetric encounters between lawyers and witnesses in hostile cross-examination. In contrast, this paper focuses on lawyer-lawyer and lawyer-judge interaction in appellate hearings and explores the ways in which advocates negotiate the task of making face-threats that are inherent to the discourse situation, while maintaining the levels of professional courtesy demanded by the institution. The word respect has a particular role in managing this balance, and has attached to it well-established implicit, indexical and professional meanings within the judiciary. The corpus analysis here shows that, although the advocates in question use respect in seemingly formulaic and ritualised ways, it is used to achieve multiple facework and interactional goals. Throughout the analysis we see advocates use respect when (dis)agreeing with judges, challenging opposing counsel and making recommendations to the court.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Linguistics, Advocacy, Prgamatics, Respect


Robson, J., Murray - Edwards, H., Braber, N. and Wright, D. (2022) The pragmatic functions of ‘respect’ in lawyers’ courtroom discourse: a case study of Brexit hearings. Journal of Pragmatics, 187, pp. 1-12


Research Institute

Centre for Law, Justice and Society