What exactly is forensic linguistics?

This post tries to collect together a few definitions of a subject that is in the news more and more often – forensic linguistics.

The 2010 publication The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics states, in its introduction: “Forensic Linguistics is the study of language and the law, covering topics from legal language and courtroom discourse to plagiarism. It also concerns the applied (forensic) linguist who is involved in providing evidence, as an expert, for the defence and prosecution, in areas as diverse as blackmail, trademarks and warning labels.

This description is given by Peter Tiersma, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, and the author of Legal Language. He says: “The field of forensic linguistics has been growing in prominence in the past couple of decades.  There is now a professional organization that bears this title (the International Association of Forensic Linguists), as well as the International Association of Forensic Phoneticians, which is closely related.  There is at least one journal (the International Journal of Speech, Language, and the Law), formerly known as Journal of Forensic Linguistics, and there seem to be two or three conferences a year devoted to the topic.  Programs in forensic linguistics are offered at several universities (mostly in the United Kingdom), and there are online courses of study either in existence or in the planning stages.  Oddly, the scope of the term “forensic linguistics” remains somewhat vague.”

Here is what Dr Tim Grant has to say. He is Deputy Director and Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics, Aston University, UK. He also makes some very interesting comments about interpreting for the police.

And to round off this overview of the subject, in particular as it relates to trademarks and advertising, this short video by Dr Ronald R. Butters, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, North Carolina, USA.

12 thoughts on “What exactly is forensic linguistics?

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  5. I was looking into this issue a while ago, and it seems that Universitat Pompeu Fabra provides Masters and postgraduate studies in this field, and is perhaps the only university that focuses on the topic in Spanish.

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