Discourse strategies of handling denials in police – suspect interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria


  • Adesina Bukunmi Sunday University of Ibadan
  • Temidayo Akinrinlola McPherson University, Abeokuta




police interrogation, criminal cases, rapport management theory, strategies of handling denials, police-suspect interaction, Ibadan


Studies on police interrogation have examined interrogating police officers’ (IPOs’) deployment of power abuse in gleaning confessional statements from suspects. However, studies on how IPOs handle denials during interrogation has not been given adequate attention. Therefore, this study investigates discourse strategies of handling denials in police-suspect interaction in Ibadan, Southwest Nigeria. Spencer-Oatey’s rapport management theory served as theoretical anchor. Recorded police interrogation sessions at the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) Ìyágankú, Ibadan constituted the data. Four cases (assault, stealing, Internet fraud and robbery) were sampled, owing to their robust manifestation of facial, sociality and interactional cues between IPOs and suspects. While suspects adopt empathic and explanatory forms of denial to threaten IPOs’ goals, IPOs engage lexical, discursive and paralinguistic choices to negotiate discursive acts of appealing to suspects’ needs, constructing testimonies against suspects, emphasising suspects’ rights and engaging detention and investigation to threaten the face, sociality rights and goals of suspects.

Author Biographies

Adesina Bukunmi Sunday, University of Ibadan

Dr. Sunday lectures at the Department of English, University of Ibadan. He specialises in English phonology and Discourse Analysis.

Temidayo Akinrinlola, McPherson University, Abeokuta

Temidayo Akinrinlola is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English Studies, McPherson University. He specialises in Forensic Discourse Studies.


Akinrinlola, T. 2019. “Deixis as a Discourse Strategy in Police-suspect Interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria”. Journal of English Scholars’ Association of Nigeria (JESAN) 21(2). 49–60.

Akinrinlola, T. 2018. “Turn Management Strategies in Police-suspect Interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria”. The Quint 10(2). 146-177.

Akinrinlola, T. 2016. Discursive Elicitation and Response Strategies in Police-suspect Interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Department of English, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.

Benneworth, K. 2009. “Police Interview with Suspected Paedophiles: A Discourse Analysis”. Discourse and Society 20(5). 555-569.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. 1987. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bull, R. 2012. “How Do Interviewers Attempt to Overcome Denials?” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 19(2). 151-168.

Fisher, R. & Edward, G. 2010. “The Cognitive Method of Conducting Police Interview: Eliciting Extensive Information and Promoting Therapeutic Jurisprudence”. International Journal Law and Psychiatry 33(1). 5-6.

Griffiths, A. 2008. “An Examination into the Efficacy of Police Advanced Investigative Interview and Training?” Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Portsmouth.

Heydon, G. 2005. The Language of Police Interviewing: A Critical Discourse Analysis. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kalbfleisch, P. 1994. “The Language of Detecting Deceit”. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 13(1). 469-496.

Kassin, S. 1997. “The Psychology of Confession Evidence.” American Psychologist 52(1). 221-233.

Kelly, C., E. Dawson & M. Harwig. 2019. “Context Manipulation in Police Interview: A Field Experiment”. Journal of Experimental Criminology 22(2). 12-24.

May, L., P. Granhag & S. Tekin. 2017. “Interviewing Suspects in Denial: on How Different Evidence Disclosure Affect the Elicitation of New Critical Information”. Frontiers in psychology 154(2). 212-224.

Nicola, S. 2012. Discourse of Rape. London: Routledge.

Omoroghomwan, B. 2018. “Police Behaviour and Identification of Criminals in Nigeria: A Study of the South-South States”. Sosyal Bilimler Metinleri 2(1). 1-17.

Soukara, S., R. Bull, A. Vrij, M. Turner, & S. Charryman. 2009. “What Really Happens in Police Interview of Suspects? Tactics and Confessions” Psychology, Crime and Law 6(1). 493-506.

Spencer-Oatey, H. 2000. “Rapport Management: A Framework for Analysis.” Culturally Speaking: Managing Rapport through Talk across Cultures, ed. by H. Spencer-Oatey. London: Continuum.

Spencer-Oatey, H. 2008. “Face (impoliteness) and Rapport”. Culturally Speaking: Culture, Communication and Politeness Theory, ed. by H. Spencer-Oatey. London: Continuum. 11-47.

Spencer-Oatey, H. 2009. Intercultural Interaction: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Intercultural Communication. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sunday, A. B. & T. Akinrinlola. 2017. “Negotiation Tactics in Police-suspect Interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria” Journal of Communication and Language Arts 8(1). 161-181.

Udoh, C. 2010. Linguistic Features of the Language of the Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha. Unpublished MA Thesis. Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Wu, J., Z. Huang & M. Liu. 2020. “Rapport Management in Intercultural Interaction: A Case Study in Emails”. Intercultural Journal of Studies in English and Literature 8(3). 6-16.




How to Cite

Sunday, A. B., & Akinrinlola, T. (2021). Discourse strategies of handling denials in police – suspect interaction in Ibadan, Nigeria. Studies in African Languages and Cultures, (55), 87–109. https://doi.org/10.32690/SALC55.4




Most read articles by the same author(s)