An Analysis of the English Mood System in Courtroom Discourse in a selected trial case in Nigeria

Abstract

This paper describes the English mood system in spoken legal discourse with particular focus on a courtroom discourse in a trial case of man-slaughter in a Nigerian court at Aba, Abia State. For the analysis in this paper, fifty (50) utterances are purposively selected from a transcription of a tape-recorded cross-examination of the trial case. Using Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar model of the English mood system a descriptive analysis of the syntactic structures of the prosecuting counsel and the defendant’s utterances is done with a view to highlight the different mood system. The findings revealed that the indicative interrogative mood is the most dominant. This affirms that the English mood system as instantiated in the sentences used in a courtroom discourse is a meaning-making resource for demanding and giving information. As the trial case entails an exchange and is a context in which the linguistic resources for statements and questions are deployed and manipulated, the paper concludes that language use in courtroom discourse provides a resource for explicating the English mood system as it contains a great variety of the indicative sentences through which the English indicative and interrogative moods for expressing assertions for or against a proposition can be described.

Keywords: English mood system, assertions, courtroom discourse, indicative mood, spoken legal discourse trial case

Article Review Status: Published

Pages: 39-50 (Download PDF)

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