The right of silence: A socio-pragmatic model of interpretation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Firstly, a sociopragmatic model of the interpretation of the silent answer is set up, with focus on the suspect in custody who is being asked questions by the police or by a lawyer in court. It is claimed that there are two types of silence - unintentional and intentional. Unintentional silence is psychological in nature, usually occurring because of personal inhibitions on the part of the addressee. Intentional silence, on the other hand, is a deliberate attempt by the addressee not to be cooperative with the addresser. A schema is then put forward that shows the process by which the questioner (the police or the court) interprets the silence of the suspect. In normal conversation, such silence is interpreted to the detriment of the silent person. However, because of the so-called right of silence, the suspect's refusal to speak may not usually be brought to the attention of the court adjudicating in the case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-69
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


Dive into the research topics of 'The right of silence: A socio-pragmatic model of interpretation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this