ABSTRACT

This chapter first addresses the textual and contextual challenges in the study of historical courtroom discursive practices. Specifically, I situate the field of historical courtroom studies and provide an overview of resources that are available, including written sources and electronic corpora, as well as of the sociocultural factors that must be taken into consideration before attempting an analysis. The chapter then proceeds to survey recent advances in the linguistic analysis of historical courtroom interactions with respect to the ideational aspects, that is, what strategies lawyers employ to construct narratives and shape different versions of reality, and to the interpersonal aspects, namely, how courtroom participants show awareness of the interlocutor and negotiate their relationships, as they endeavor to accomplish their transactional goals in this institutional discourse. These two aspects of trial talk are also extended to the understudied genre of the opening statement, which is appropriate for diachronic exploration, as it originated in the 18th century. The chapter ends by discussing the importance of the studies discussed and identifies future research topics that need scholarly attention.