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How can we use linguistics to solve crimes? In this course, students will learn how linguistic analysis is used in legal settings. We ask (1) What can a spoken or written text tell us about its author(s)? (2) What factors facilitate author attribution and what factors complicate it? (3) Is there really such a thing as a 'linguistic fingerprint', allowing us to categorically identify someone just from a recording of their voice or a piece of their writing? And (4) What is involved in 'being a forensic linguist'?
It is very common in TV police shows (e.g. in the CSI. . . series) to see a recording of a voice being loaded into a police computer, and then, after only a minute, seeing a photograph of a face with an exact - and always precisely accurate - identication of the speaker. This very fast and very efficient procedure is a work of fiction. It is possible to identify some characteristics of a speaker from their voice (e.g. sex, age, regional origin, even their height), but this cannot be done automatically by a computer alone. It requires a forensic linguist - an analyst with thorough training in linguistics. In this course, students will learn how linguistic analysis is used in legal settings. We ask: (1) What can a spoken or written text tell us about its author(s)? (2) What factors facilitate author attribution and what factors complicate it? (3) Is there really such a thing as a "linguistic fingerprint", allowing us to categorically identify a speaker just from a recording of their voice or a piece of their writing? (4) What is involved in "being a forensic linguist"? (5) How can linguistic analysis expose language-based power plays, inequalities and injustices in the legal process? and (6) How can linguistic analysis help minority and minorized groups better access legal services? Students will study how linguistic techniques are used to uncover issues of authorship/speakership (e.g. ransom demands, kidnappings, plagiarism), issues of speaker identication (e.g. nuisance callers, threats over the telephone) issues of language identication (e.g. speaker proling, including identication of a speaker's likely origin), content resolution in cases of disputed utterances (such as in the recent retrial of David Bain), and how sociolinguistic analysis exposes power relationships in the courtroom.
Subject knowledgeBy the end of the course, you will:* have a clear understanding of the nature of forensic linguistics and forensic speech science as specialised fields of linguistics* be able to demonstrate the falsehoods portrayed in popular representations of forensic linguistic work (e.g.in the media, on FaceBook, etc.);I understand the types of data collected and utilised in forensic linguistics, including the issues of ethics and condentiality of data;* be able to demonstrate awareness of some of the main legal cases around the world (mainly in Aotearoa New Zealand, UK, and the USA) which have involved linguistic evidence and shaped the field;* understand the role of the forensic linguist in legal cases.Skills and personal attributesBy the end of the course, you will have developed your skills in:* academic writing: you will be given the opportunity to present data, argumentation, ndings and references in a written form;* analysis & interpretation: you will practice analysing and interpreting data and drawing appropriate conclusions.* argumentation and evaluation: you will practice critically evaluating a particular hypothesis or argument in relation to a specific area of forensic linguistic investigation;* personal organisation: you will undertake self-directed study and develop appropriate time-management skills;* information technology: you will develop the ability to use basic IT skills to analyse data and present information.
This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:
Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award
Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.
Any 15 points at any level from any subject.
Coulthard, Malcolm. , Johnson, Alison;
The Routledge handbook of forensic linguistics;
Optional readings will be distributed on Learn.
Domestic fee $777.00
International fee $3,375.00
* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.
This course will not be offered if fewer than 20 people apply to enrol.
For further information see
Language, Social and Political Sciences.