First Advisor

Keith Walters

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Police -- Language, Forensic linguistics, Speech acts (Linguistics), African Americans -- Violence against, Traffic violations



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 70 pages)


In recent years, the public has seen a rise in recorded footage of violent encounters between police and Black American citizens, partially due to technology such as cell phones, dash-cameras, and body-cameras. This linguistic study examines how these encounters get escalated to the point of violence by asking 1) what kind of directives were used, 2) how were they responded to, 3) how the directives contributed to escalation, and 4) how might power and authority have played a role. I use two case studies to analyze directives and their responses. Findings reveal that repetition of directives on the part of the officers, as well as the rejections to those directives on the part of the motorists tend to aggravate the conversation. I conclude that a variety of directives may represent a variety of reasons the officer might have for a motorist to comply with their directives and that police authority might be better understood and agreed to by the motorist if a variety of linguistic resources were used.


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