Heather Littlefield


The relationship between gender and power in spoken language has been studied both in and out of the courtroom. Previous research suggests that the use of powerful or powerless language by witnesses in criminal trials is not decided by gender, although it may play a role among numerous status-determining factors. This study investigated the relationship between gender and the use of powerful and powerless speech by criminal law attorneys in witness examinations. Recordings of trials were coded for features of powerless language and data were analyzed along the dimensions of participant role, gender, and examination type. The results suggest that gender influences the speech of attorneys, participant role is largely influential in the speech of witnesses, and examination type affects all participants. These findings were interpreted with respect to previous studies in powerful and powerless language, and suggestions for future research were made.

Date Accepted


Publication Date



Language, Gender, Courtroom

Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Rights Holder

Mischa Bauermeister

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