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Deceptive Ambiguity by Police and Prosecutors$
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Roger W. Shuy

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190669898

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190669898.001.0001

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Complainants Use Deceptive Ambiguity

Complainants Use Deceptive Ambiguity

(p.169) 7 Complainants Use Deceptive Ambiguity
Deceptive Ambiguity by Police and Prosecutors

Roger W. Shuy

Oxford University Press

Complainants are people who suspect of crimes often committed by members of their own family or someone they know. They go to the police, who then have the complainants tape-record their conversations with suspects and coach them in how to make these confrontation calls as they try to get the suspects to admit their roles in the crime. Complainants use deceptive ambiguity to camouflage the speech event as a friendly meeting or call, which causes the suspects to have different schemas about the conversations. By controlling the agenda and using various conversational strategies to block the suspects’ topics, the complainants try to prevent suspects from defending themselves. The complainants also use ambiguity to misinterpret suspects’ speech acts and words in ways that support a prosecution. This chapter describes complainants’ conversations with two brothel commissioners, an uncle of a girl who claimed he sexually molested her, and a sheriff whose secretary accused him of sexual misconduct.

Keywords:   complainants, confrontation call, deceptive ambiguity, camouflage, speech event, schemas, agendas, speech acts, conversational strategies, words

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