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Confronting the Death PenaltyHow Language Influences Jurors in Capital Cases$
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Robin Conley

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199334162

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199334162.001.0001

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Linguistic Distance and the Dehumanization of Capital Defendants

Linguistic Distance and the Dehumanization of Capital Defendants

Chapter:
(p.120) 5 Linguistic Distance and the Dehumanization of Capital Defendants
Source:
Confronting the Death Penalty
Author(s):

Robin Conley

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199334162.003.0005

Working from linguistic theory on empathetic and emotional deixis, chapter 5 argues that certain deictic reference forms used to refer to defendants establish distance between speakers and defendants and contribute to their dehumanization by treating them as unindividuated types. The chapter draws a parallel between studies on empathy and physical and linguistic proximity, through which empathy is mediated. Those theorizing killing have argued that the further (physically, emotionally, culturally) one is from a victim, the harder it is to empathize and thus the easier it is to kill. Relying on this logic, chapter 5 argues that through demonstrative formulations such as “that man,” jurors and attorneys place distance between themselves and defendants, thus occluding the opportunity for empathy and facilitating sentences of death. The deictic reference forms analyzed in this chapter most frequently occur within the context of linguistic acts of dehumanization, which help jurors justify their sentences for death.

Keywords:   deixis, empathy and killing, person reference, demonstrative pronoun, proximity

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