Skip to main content Accessibility help

In evidence: Linguistic transformations of events in police interview reports

  • Gunilla Byrman (a1) and Ylva Byrman (a2)


The aim of this article is to examine how police investigators reproduce interviewees’ utterances in narratives, in direct and indirect reported speech, and by enclosing words in reports in quotation marks. Drawing on a larger study of professional writing, the pertinent research question for the current investigation is how writing techniques in police interview reports convey evidential value in the form of reported utterances. A corpus of police reports on domestic violence is explored from the theoretical perspectives of critical discourse analysis, polyvocality and reportative evidentiality. A new analytical framework for polyvocal texts is developed in terms of utterance, source and framer. The results show that it is difficult to determine whether or not words placed within quotation marks are meant to present verbatim quotes. Another finding is that police investigators are not consistent in documenting utterances from different sources, or in showing whether utterances are embedded in other utterances. This may obscure the structure of the original events and the source of crucial utterances, resulting in unclear evidential status for police reports.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      In evidence: Linguistic transformations of events in police interview reports
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      In evidence: Linguistic transformations of events in police interview reports
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      In evidence: Linguistic transformations of events in police interview reports
      Available formats



Hide All
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2007. Information source and evidentiality: What can we conclude. Italian Journal of Linguistics / Rivista di Linguistica 19 (1), 209227.
Ajagán-Lester, Luis, Ledin, Per & Rahm, Henrik. 2003. Intertextualiteter. In Englund, Boel & Ledin, Per (eds.), Teoretiska perspektiv på sakprosa, 203238. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
Andrus, Jennifer. 2015. Entextualizing Domestic Violence: Language Ideology and Violence against Women in the Anglo-American Hearsay Principle. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ask, Sofia. 2018. ‘She had it coming?’: An experimental study of text interpretation in a police classroom setting. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 41 (2), 133–153.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. Discourse in the novel. In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, edited by Holquist, Michael. Austin, TX: University of Texas.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1986. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, vol. 8. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Bauman, Richard & Briggs, Charles L.. 1990. Poetics and performance as critical perspectives on language and social life. Annual Review of Anthropology 19, 5988.
Boye, Kasper. 2010. Semantic maps and the identification of cross-linguistic generic categories: Evidentiality and its relation to epistemic modality. Linguistic Discovery 8 (1), 422.
Boye, Kasper & Harder, Peter. 2009. Evidentiality: Linguistic categories and grammaticalization. Functions of Language 16 (1), 943.
Byrman, Gunilla. 2014. Police writing techniques in reported interviews. In de Guzman, Melchor C., Das, Aiedeo Mintie & Das, Dilip K. (eds.), The Evolution of Policing: Worldwide Innovations and Insights, 247262. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Byrman, Gunilla & Byrman, Ylva. 2012. Narrative techniques in written police records in Sweden. Presented at the IAFL conference in Kuala Lumpur, 7 July 2012.
Byrman, Ylva. 2017. Så fångas de misstänktas ord: Förhör och dokumentationspraktiker på Skattebrottsenheten [Capturing the suspect's words: Investigative interviewing and documentation practices at the Swedish tax fraud unit]. Ph.D. thesis, Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet.
Chafe, Wallace. 1986. Evidentiality in English conversation and academic writing. In Chafe, Wallace & Nichols, Johanna (eds.), Evidentiality: The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology, 261272. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Chouliaraki, Lilie & Fairclough, Norman. 1999. Discourse in Late Modernity: Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Codex. 1990. Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning [Principles for research ethics in the humanities and social sciences]. (accessed 9 January 2012). The Research Council for Humanities–Social Research in Sweden.
Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity.
Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London: Longman.
Fludernik, Monika. 1993. The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction: The Linguistic Representation of Speech and Consciousness. London: Routledge.
Förundersökningskungörelsen [Investigation Report Decree]. 1947. (accessed 9 January 2012).
Galatolo, Renata. 2007. Active voice in court. In Holt, Elizabeth & Clift, Rebecca (eds.), Reporting Talk: Reported Speech in Interaction, 195220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Genette, Gérard. 1992. The Architext: An Introduction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Gumbel, Ingatora. 2000. Hörd angående misshandel: Polisens protokoll vid förhör med misshandlade kvinnor och misstänkta män [Interviewed concerning assault: Police investigative interviews with abused women and male suspects]. Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Scandinavian Languages.
Haworth, Kate. 2013. Audience design in the police interview: The interactional and judicial consequences of audience orientation. Language in Society 42 (1), 4569.
Heffer, Chris. 2005. The Language of Jury Trial: A Corpus-aided Analysis of Legal–Lay Discourse. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Heffer, Chris. 2010. Narrative in the trial: Constructing crime stories in the court. In Coulthard, Malcolm & Johnson, Alison (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics, 199217. New York: Routledge.
Heffer, Chris, Rock, Frances & Conley, John M. (eds.). 2013. Legal–Lay Communication: Textual Travels in the Law. New York: Oxford University Press.
Heydon, Georgina. 2013. From legislation to the courts. In Heffer et al. (eds.), 55–77.
Holt, Elizabeth & Johnson, Alison. 2010. Legal talk. Socio-pragmatic aspects of legal talk: Police interviews and trial discourse. In Coulthard & Johnson (eds.), 21–36.
Jakobs, Eva-Maria. 2008. Berufliches Schreiben: Ausbildung, Training, Coaching. In Jakobs, Eva-Maria & Lehnen, Katrin (eds.), Coaching und berufliches Schreiben, 114. Frankfurt/M.: Peter Lang.
Johnson, Alison. 2013. Embedding police interviews in the prosecution in the Shipman trial. In Heffer et al. (eds.), 147–167.
Jönsson, Linda. 1988. Polisförhöret som kommunikationssituation [Police interrogations as a communication situation]. Ph.D. thesis, Linköping University.
Komter, Martha. 2006. From talk to text: The interactional construction of a police record. Research on Language and Social Interaction 39 (3), 201228.
Komter, Martha. 2013. Travels of a suspect's statement. In Heffer et al. (eds.), 126–146.
Leech, Geoffrey & Short, Mick. 2007. Style in Fiction: A Linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose, 2nd edn. Harlow: Longman.
Linell, Per. 2009. Rethinking Language, Mind, and World Dialogically: Interactional and Contextual Theories of Human Sense-making. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
Matoesian, Gregory M. 2000. Intertextual authority in reported speech: Production media in the Kennedy Smith rape trial. Journal of Pragmatics 32 (7), 879914.
Mushin, Ilana. 2001. Evidentiality and Epistemological Stance: Narrative Retelling. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Pappinen, Anna. 2010. Återberättade berättelser: Om anföringsbruk i förhörstext [Retold stories: Reported speech in written police interrogations]. BA thesis, Department of Language and Literature, Linnaeus University. (accessed 9 January 2012).
Park, Joseph Sung-Yul & Bucholtz, Mary. 2009. Introduction. Public transcripts: Entextualization and linguistic representation in institutional contexts. In Park, Joseph Sung-Yul & Bucholtz, Mary (eds.), special issue of Text & Talk 29 (5), 485502.
Riktlinjer för skrivande inom polisen [Guidelines for writing in the police]. 2006. 4th edn. Stockholm: Rikspolisstyrelsen.
Rock, Frances. 2001. The genesis of a witness statement. International Journal of Speech Language and the Law 8 (2), 4472.
Rock, Frances. 2010. Witnesses and suspects in interviews: Collecting oral evidence. The police, the public and the written words. In Coulthard & Johnson (eds.), 126–138.
Seawright, Leslie. 2012. The Literacy Practices of Law Enforcement. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arkansas.
Spinuzzi, Clay & Jakobs, Eva-Maria. 2013. Integrated writers, integrated writing, and the integration of distributed work. Connexions: International Professional Communication Journal 1 (1), 119124.
Toolan, Michael J. 2001. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction, 2nd edn. London: Routledge.
van Charldorp, Tessa. 2011. From Police Interrogation to Police Record. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij BOXPress, Oisterwijk.
Vološinov, Valentin Nikolaevic. 1983. The construction of the utterance. In Shukman, Ann (ed.), Bakhtin School Papers, 114138. Oxford: RPT Publications.
Vygotskij, Lev Semenovič. 1978. Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press.
Yang, Linxiu. 2014. Evidentiality in English research articles of applied linguistics: From the perspective of meta discourse. Journal of Language Teaching and Research 5 (3), 581591.


In evidence: Linguistic transformations of events in police interview reports

  • Gunilla Byrman (a1) and Ylva Byrman (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed