The next seminar of the Northumbria Language and Linguistics Research Seminar Series will take place on Wednesday 23rd November at 12:00 in Lipman 121. The seminar will be delivered in a hybrid format so join us in person or online.  We are pleased to welcome our newest member of staff  Dr. Patricia Canning who will  be talking about ‘Making institutional sense of domestic abuse in police casework’

All welcome! 

You can find directions to the campus and a campus map here:

This is a hybrid event so you can also join online. Please email Rola Naeb for the link to join online:

Title: Making institutional sense of domestic abuse in police casework.


Conversational implicature (Grice 1975) is a pragmatic strategy used in discourse to carry meaning(s) not encoded explicitly in language. Discourse participants often make sense of utterances in everyday interactions by picking up implicated meanings. This is largely achieved by recourse to relevance (Sperber and Wilson 1986; Clark 2013). However, because meanings generated through implicatures cannot be traced back to linguistic forms they can be easily denied. They are a good vehicle therefore, for carrying meanings that discourse participants are reluctant to put on-record but wish to communicate nonetheless.  

In my talk, I examine how ‘relevance’ helps explain sense-making in police MG3 reports (‘Management Guidance’ reports prepared for prosecutors to obtain charging decisions). The reports summarise domestic abuse cases. All of the cases in the reports resulted in non-prosecutorial discharge decisions (i.e. a ‘simple caution’). I’ll talk about (a) the ways in which investigating officers and their police gatekeepers present case information through implicature; (b)  how receivers (police and prosecutors) can use relevance to derive additional meanings from the reports; and (c) the potential impact of implicature-driven information on case outcomes. Finally, I argue that some implicatures (and their cooperative recovery by institutional agents) can be regarded as constituting victim-blaming (Lynn and Canning 2021), and by extension, reflect institutional misogynistic ideologies about domestic abuse crimes.  


Brown, P. and Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage, volume 4. Cambridge University Press. 

Canning, P., & Lynn, N. (2021). ‘Additions, Omissions, and Transformations in Institutional ‘Retellings’ of Domestic Violence cases’, Language and Law, 8(1): 118–138. 

Clark, B. (2013). Relevance Theory. Cambridge University Press. 

Grice, H. P. (1975). ‘Logic and conversation’. In P. Cole and J.L. Morgan (Eds). Syntax and Semantics. Volume 3, pp. 41–58. 

Sperber, D. and Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell Press. 

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