There are many ways of skinning a cat, my lord: Humor in the Malaysian adversarial courtroom

Noraini Ibrahim, Radha M.K. Nambiar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper examines verbal humor in courtroom interaction in Malaysia. The adversarial courtroom is normally described as a site of struggle as disputes are presented and argued, while frames of reality are built and challenged. Social actors construct, deconstruct and reconstruct narratives and at the same time, through strategic linguistic devices attempt to maintain their profesional identities. Humor in the courtroom thus seems rather incongruous as the adversarial courtroom is usually characterized by multi-party discursive acts with both opposing parties having the aim of winning the case. The atmosphere is typically solemn and tense as lawyers ask and demand answers from witnesses, who are usually baffled by the rigors of the institutional talk. Despite this, laughter and humor are present at certain times and during certain occasions. The question is when is humor appropriate in a context of power asymmetry and contestations? Further, can humor in the Malaysia multi-cultural context reveal other strategies that are culturally oriented?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-89
Number of pages17
Journal3L: Language, Linguistics, Literature
Volume17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Fingerprint

humor
Malaysia
social actor
lawyer
asymmetry
witness
Courtroom
linguistics
narrative
demand
interaction

Keywords

  • Courtroom discourse
  • Humor
  • Judicial opinion
  • Legal ethnography
  • Power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

There are many ways of skinning a cat, my lord : Humor in the Malaysian adversarial courtroom. / Ibrahim, Noraini; Nambiar, Radha M.K.

In: 3L: Language, Linguistics, Literature, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2011, p. 73-89.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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