The pragmatic use of gender in Latina women's legal narratives of abuse


  • Shonna Trinch



latinas, gender performance, domestic violence, protective orders, law


This paper examines the way in which gender is constructed in narratives of abuse by U.S. Latina women and legal professionals within the U.S. legal context of the protective order application interview. Though traditional gender roles can be oppressive for men and women, the analysis undertaken here illustrates how Latina women pragmatically and linguistically utilize their language resources to perform some roles of traditional womanhood in order to free themselves from abusive relationships. Through their strategic use of referential and non-referential linguistic devices, these Latinas speak up about the violence in their lives. They also manage to speak against the strict victim-identity the U.S. legal system tries to impose on them by performing as good mothers, good wives and good citizens.

Author Biography

Shonna Trinch

Shonna Trinch is an associate professor in the Department Anthropology at John Jay College where she teaches Sex and Culture, American Cultural Pluralism and the Law and Forensic Linguistics. Her book, Latinas’ Narratives of Domestic Abuse: discrepant versions of violence (John Benjamins, 2003) is about the ways in which Latina women and sociolegal authorities in 10 different institutional settings collaborate and conflict in the creation of legal narratives of gender-related assaults. Professor Trinch has published articles in Language in Society, Text, and the Journal of Sociolinguistics. She is currently working on the language of jury selection in American voir dire. And she is about to begin a new research project that will focus on linguistic landscapes in New York City.



How to Cite

Trinch, S. (2007). The pragmatic use of gender in Latina women’s legal narratives of abuse. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 14(1), 51–83.