Topic Change as a Conversational Strategy in Police-Suspect Interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria


  • Temidayo Akinrinlola McPherson University
  • Farinde Raifu McPherson University


Police-Suspect interaction, henceforth PSI, is a form of forensic discourse. It is a relatively new area in language study. Existing studies have illuminated police discourse from the non-linguistic perspective. Such studies have not investigated the import of topic change in police interrogation. Studies on police interrogation, from the linguistic angle, still beg scholarly attention. To extend the frontiers of existing linguistic engagement of police interrogation, this study examines the significance of topic change as conversational strategy in police-suspect interaction with a view to uncovering the motivation for topic change and its implication on the interrogation process. Using conversational analysis as its theoretical anchor, interrogation sessions on burglary and stealing, murder, physical abuse, felony, robbery and malicious damage were tape-recorded at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Ìyágànkú, Ibadan, Oyo State. The nonparticipant observation technique was adopted. Interrogating police officers, henceforth IPOs, and suspects change interrogation topics through the deployment of interrogatives, the bridge technique, making reference to earlier topics, summoning, deflection and giving compliments and seeking advice. Apart from serving pedagogical significance, the discourse analytical approach to police interrogation provokes a better understanding of how PSI works. The study reveals that topic change remains a viable tool for stamping the motivations of IPOs and suspects during interrogation sessions. A study of topic management in PSI reveals how power is enacted and managed in PSI.


Key words: topic change, conversational strategy, conversational analysis, police-suspect, interrogation power


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