Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Native and non-native English speakers' perceptions of hedging in the oral arguments of civil rights cases
by Naugle, William R., Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 122; 3454485
Abstract (Summary)

The hallmark of a free, democratic society is the civil rights that society bestows upon its population. Access to civil rights, however, is often only afforded through challenges and struggles that a society must confront. The present research considers carefully the linguistic pragmatic challenges that exist in civil rights court cases that may affect accessibility to those very rights. One such pragmatic challenge is the linguistic device of hedging. This mixed method study focuses on how native and non-native speakers perceive a range of hedging in attorney summaries of civil rights court cases. Participants read unhedged and hedged texts of attorney summaries and completed a Likert item questionnaire. They responded to how they perceived component parts of hedging; how they felt about the subject matter of the text; and which side they thought won the case. I performed a Mann-Whitney U quantitative analysis on the Likert item data and a qualitative analysis on the narrative comments. The data would seem to indicate that there is a statistically significant difference with respect to how individuals perceive truthfulness with regard to the amount hedged in attorney summaries. Non-natives were less discriminating than natives regarding hedges in the legal register, meaning that they missed an aspect of the message attorneys tried to send. Not only is this a significant revelation of the importance of hedging in courtroom communication, but it also addresses the gap in the literature that I have identified and the claims that I have put forth within my research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ebsworth, Miriam Eisenstein
Commitee: Selinker, Larry, Wry, Brann
School: New York University
Department: Teaching and Learning
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Linguistics, English as a Second Language, International law
Keywords: Applied linguistics, Civil rights, Hedge, Hedging, Nonnative English speakers, Oral arguments, Pragmatics
Publication Number: 3454485
ISBN: 9781124640372
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