Everyday legal discourse refers to the spoken language with which ordinary people constitute the law-in-action. In this article, we experimentally investigate the social distribution of rule-and relationally-oriented discourse found by ethnographers in small-claims court settings. We examine the influences of sex differences and social ties between disputants on these types of discourse in a mock small-claims setting using a quantitative content coding scheme. We do not find empirical support for sex differences in the production of simulated everyday legal discourse. The relational context of a dispute (operationalized as the strength of social ties between disputants) has significant effects on the distribution of rule-and relationally-oriented discourse, so that disputants in relationally-close contexts produce more relationally-oriented discourse and those in relationally-distant contexts produce more rule-oriented discourses than those in relationally-close contexts. With these findings as a backdrop, we discuss (1) the contextual nature of sex differences in everyday legal discourse; (2) discourse "switching" and emotional investment in personal relationships, and (3) applications for our coding scheme to studies of disputing frames.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science