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Title: Apologies and the police
Author: Friskney, Ruth Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 6750
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis describes how the police apologise, primarily through lexical and syntactic analysis of explicit apology language in letters written by the Scottish police. The unique contribution of this thesis is the identification of two distinct speech acts using apology language; one is an act of payment for an evidenced failing and another is an act of validation of another person’s perspective. This thesis suggests that these two acts may have developed in police use of apology language to manage conflicting pressures on the police, such as to be polite to the multiple audiences for their apologies. Discursive approaches to politeness research often focus on immediate recipient responses as evidence that language is evaluated as (im)polite. This approach is not well suited to written language, where the recipient(s) may be at a distance in both time and space. I amend Terkourafi’s (2005) frame-based analysis, taking insights from scholarship on writing, to develop the application of politeness research to written language. I collected letters written by the Scottish police containing their final decision on complaints made about the police by members of the public. The first stage of my analysis, to detail the production of these letters, establishes that evaluation and opportunities for editing take place among the many writers involved in producing the letters; repetition of particular linguistic forms in particular contexts may be taken therefore as a police institutional understanding that such forms are a polite use of language in particular situations. My analysis of the letters identifies first that the police use apology language where they have been acquitted of wrongdoing, in contrast to public perceptions that the police do not apologise. They distinguish in linguistic form between such situations and where there is evidence of failings, leading me to delineate one act of validation of an addressee’s claim to respect and another in ritual payment for an evidenced failing. The form and function distinctions of these acts lead me to suggest that ‘apology’ needs to be reconsidered as a concept, not a single speech act but a cluster of related acts.
Supervisor: Hall-Lew, Lauren ; Joseph, John Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: politeness ; apology ; police