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Why Do You Ask?The Function of Questions in Institutional Discourse$
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Alice Freed and Susan Ehrlich

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306897

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306897.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 April 2021

Asking Ostensibly Silly Questions in Police‐Suspect Interrogations

Asking Ostensibly Silly Questions in Police‐Suspect Interrogations

6 Asking Ostensibly Silly Questions in Police‐Suspect Interrogations
Why Do You Ask?

Elizabeth Stokoe

Derek Edwards

Oxford University Press

This chapter, written by Elizabeth Stokoe and Derek Edwards, considers the occurrence in police‐suspect interrogations of what the authors term “silly questions.” A “silly question” is one that has an answer that both the police officer (i.e., the questioner) and the suspect (i.e., the answerer) already know and is asked in order “to establish for the record” something of the suspect's reported state of mind when engaged in the arrestable activity. In their analysis, Stokoe and Edwards examine the epistemic stance of the questioners and conclude that in using a silly question, the questioner adopts a “knowing” stance toward the information being requested and that these silly questions perform a bureaucratic function. The authors conclude that the institutional representatives ask questions not to obtain new information but rather to fulfill an institutionally mandated task that requires them to elicit information that they already know.

Keywords:   questions, police‐suspect interrogations, question function, epistemic stance, institutionally mandated task, bureaucratic function, new information

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