Language and Linguistics

Forensic linguistics definition/origin/areas/methodology

Forensic Linguistics

The forensic linguistics is a sub-discipline of applied linguistics , dealing with issues at the interface of language , law and crime is concerned. Themes of forensic linguistics include the identification of speakers by voice analysis (forensic phonetics ) and the author assignment of texts in preliminary proceedings, be it ransom letters , confessional letters , confessions, wills or plagiarism . In a broader sense, forensic linguistics also explores topics such as the comprehensibility of legal texts and the language in court. Forensic linguistics definition

Forensic Linguistics and Legal Linguistics 

In German-speaking countries a distinction is made between forensic linguistics and legal linguistics . While forensic linguistics deals primarily with linguistic phenomena as the subject of criminal investigation, legal linguists analyze the language of law as an element of legal communication (eg legal language, judicial communication, language in administrative authorities). In Anglo-American countries, this distinction between legal linguistics and forensic linguistics does not exist, but all the topics mentioned are treated under forensic linguistics . [1]

Beginnings of Forensic Linguistics 

The term “forensic linguistics” appears for the first time in a publication by Jan Svartvik in 1968 ( a case for forensic linguistics ), in which he describes the use of linguistic methods to investigate a serial murder case. Important publications in German-speaking countries will follow in the 1980s, for example. By Hannes Kniffka. Forensic linguistics definition

History of Forensic Linguistics

The explicit birth of forensic linguistics can be placed in 1968, when Jan Svartvik publishes: The Evans Statements: A Case for Forensic Linguistics , where it is shown that the dubbed parts of a series of four confessions, which had been dictated to the police by a young man named Timothy Evans, who accused him of the murder of his wife and daughter, reflected a qualitative and quantitatively different grammatical style of the style of the uninvited parts of those confessions. However, Malcolm Coulthard and Alison Johnson (2007) mention that “20 years before (1949) the term Forensic English had been used by Philbrick in the title of his book on legal English,Language and the Law: the Semantics of Forensic English , but the expression was not resumed later. ”

During the 60s, 70s and 80s, especially in the US and Canada, lawyers, judicial police and other professionals dedicated to crime investigation had requested the intervention of linguists as experts in matters related to law and language. However, this professional practice was isolated and little methodologically cohesive, and its results were published in a very dispersed way.

From the 90s there is a series of changes that justify the name of a new thematic area, forensic linguistics. First, there is much more demand for services in forensic linguistics and the performance of experts is much more professionalized. Second, it should be noted that the publication of texts and collections of articles and book chapters in forensic linguistics is extended, reflecting a coherent and internationally agreed methodology. Thirdly, it is important to highlight the creation of the International Association of Forensic Phonetics – IAFP (St. John’s College, York (1991)), currently the International Association of Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics – IAFPA and the International Association of Forensic Linguists – IAFL (School of English, University of Birmingham (1992)). Finally, we must highlight the publication, in 1994, of the first issue of The International Journal of Speech Language and the Law (previously called Forensic Linguistics), which already has 24 issues in 2017. Forensic linguistics definition

With the new millennium, we can talk about a consolidation of the discipline and great vitality, aspects that are reflected in the following actions: a) The celebration of the ninth international congress of the IAFL (13th biennial Conference on Forensic Linguistics / Language and the Law (Porto, 2017) and the eighteenth international congress of the IAFPA(Cambridge (United Kingdom), 2009). b) The creation of laboratories and centers of forensic linguistics and phonetics and forensic acoustics, both institutional and governmental, some of them related to the state security forces. c) the publication of monographic volumes, collective volumes, introductions to the discipline and textbooks in forensic linguistics. d) The offer of postgraduate courses, postgraduate diplomas, or Masters specialized in Forensic Linguistics, standing out among the latter those of the universities of Cardiff – Cardiff University – and Aston – Aston University , in the United Kingdom and that offered in the Pompeu Fabra University Pompeu Fabra, in Spain. e) The offer of short specialized courses in Forensic Linguistics highlighting, for example, those of Hofstra University, York University and, in Spain, those offered by the Autonomous University of Madrid or the SQ-Linguist Forensics Laboratory.

 What areas does forensic linguistics study and investigate?

Despite not being too many, we can highlight the following:

  1. – The use of oral and written linguistic information (phonological, morphological, syntactic, discursive, terminological) to identify speakers and writers of a particular linguistic variety, style or register.
  2. – The analysis of the imitation of the firm and the production of texts for criminal purposes.
  3. – The establishment of authorship, both oral and written texts, and plagiarism analysis.
  4. Reading comprehension of legal documents. Forensic linguistics definition
  5. – Legal and judicial discourse.
  6. – Interpretation and legal, judicial and support translation in multilingual contexts.

Areas of action

 Addressing the issue from a very general perspective, and following (approximately) the organizing scheme of the fundamental Language and the Law , edited by Gibbons (1994), it can be said that there are three major areas in which the paths of language and law are intersect

  1.  the language of the law , that is, the language of legal texts, the problems derived from the fact that laws are formulated and transmitted through language, such as the analysis of the meaning and the ‘interpretation’ of laws , the intelligibility of legal language, etc. ( Danet 1990, Hiltunen 1990, Mellinkoff 1963, Shuy 1998, Tiersma 1999).
  2.  language in legal proceedings : language as an instrument for legal argumentation both in oral hearings and in the preparation of sentences; language as a potential source of disadvantage before the law for certain social groups, including children, speakers of a foreign language or ethnic or dialectical minorities of all kinds. (Atkinson and Drew 1979, Bennet and Feldman 1981, Danet , Hoffman, Kermish , Rafn and Stayman 1980, Harris 1984).
  3.  linguistic evidence in legal processes : the use, validity, reliability of linguistic evidence in judicial processes, that is, the analysis of linguistic materials at different levels (phonological-phonetic, morpho- syntactic, lexical-semantic, pragmatic-discursive, etc.) and its probative value in these processes. Forensic linguistics definition

Application of forensic linguistics in the field of Law

What specific tasks can you perform as a forensic linguist expert? Performing transcription tasks, preparation of forensic recordings and analysis of the linguistic profile of the author of a text.

Therefore, this branch of linguistics is directly related to law . For example, it is very important to define the language of the law so that a regulation is expressed through a rigorous formulation.

Resolution of contradictions in legal texts

A forensic linguist also specializes in the specific transcription of audio recordings as a means of information in a case. This language analysis is also very important to clarify possible points of contradiction in legal documents such as a contract.

Identification of the authorship of a text

Similarly, a specific application of this practical knowledge is to determine the authorship of an anonymous text . Language as a form of communication is present in all branches of life, also at the level of Law.

Voice test

For example, the forensic linguist specialist can perform a voice validation test in situations where it is necessary to confirm whether the voice belongs to a specific person. Voice identification can also be carried out in those situations in which it is necessary to specify to whom a voice belongs from among several possible candidates. Forensic linguistics definition

Then forensic linguistics can help prevent attacks.

Although it escapes a bit of forensic linguistics, we also recommend what language a machine should use to make it more human, more natural. We guide you on what questions and what answers you should ask according to the audience you are targeting: younger, older, with a higher cultural level …

Also in police interrogations: How is a child interrogated? In the same way as an adult? Of course not. Because in the questions we can be giving you information that you can incorporate into your language. We began to do this because some children’s lawyers asked us for expert reports to assess whether what a psychological expert report indicated that a minor had said was true or not. For that we have to look at the transcript of the interview.

5. Methodology

This discipline makes use of different techniques derived from current technologies , as well as applied statistics .

The development of research and service expertise in forensic linguistics are carried out usually from a set of tools and statistical techniques that enable opinions , actions and scientific advice and professional high competence and reliability by forensic linguists , to later use them from different institutions and public bodies (public ministry, police), private (companies) and forvarious professionals (judges, defense lawyers, psychologists, doctors).

However, the expert evidence presented is not always definitive or conclusive evidence, but complementary to other types of evidence such as possible alterations of documents, authorship of texts, writings, works or to introduce a reasonable doubt . Forensic linguistics definition

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