International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 22, No 1 (2015)


doi : 10.1558/ijsll.v22i1.27072

Ens queda la paraula: Estudis de lingüística aplicada en honor a M. Teresa Turell

Raquel Casesnoves, Montserrat Forcadell and Núria Gavaldà eds (2014)

Institut Universitari de Lingüística Aplicada, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Reviewed by Elena Garayzábal Heinze

I am honoured to have been asked to write a review of the book Ens queda la paraula: Estudis de lingüística aplicada en honor a M. Teresa Turell.[1] The book, whose title translates as We Have the Word: Applied Linguistics Studies in Honor of M. Teresa Turell, is a compilation of 20 chapters, written in three different languages (Spanish, Catalan and English) by different authors. It contains four main sections, a brief overview of M. Turrell’s contributions to several applied linguistics disciplines, two reviews and a tabula laudatio at the end of the book.

Forensic linguistics, sociolinguistic variation, multilingualism, English language: what have all these disciplines in common to justify a 399-page book? The interest in languages led Maite, as Professor Turell was known to many of her colleagues, to study English philology and further pursue her PhD on the Catalan language, where she was able to apply sociolinguistic methodology and start developing her work in the field. Her interests were wide and diverse. As a result, she authored works on different linguistic areas, which, at the same time, share commonalities. The present tribute collects studies by different professionals who worked and collaborated with Maite in a wide variety of linguistic areas.

These collected works follow a chronological order according to the different areas of knowledge on which Maite Turell centred her career from the very beginning. Casesnoves, Forcadell and Gavaldà, the book editors, give a detailed description of Maite’s lifework in a short biographical overview at the beginning of the book. Then, in the first section, three chapters focus on sociolinguistic variation, adopting historical and synchronic perspectives. These chapters are specifically on: neutral non-tonic vowels in written Catalan in the fifteenth century (A. Mas i Miralles and B. Montoya), linguistic and administrative boundaries in Ribagorça i Aran (J. Suïls) and some current grammatical changes in English (J.R. Varela). The second section focuses on the English language, and provides current and past perspectives through different studies: the development of L2 speech perception and cognitive abilities (J.C. Mora), the interplay between information structure and syntax in the history of the English language (J. Pérez-Guerra) and a corpus-based forensic linguistic study (I. Verdaguer). The third section deals with multilingualism in four chapters adopting various approaches: demolinguistic exercises (R. Casesnoves and D. Sankoff), new identities discourse (E. Codó), the distance hypothesis approach to bilingual code-switching with German/English and Chinese/English (E.M. Durán and L. Wang) and a study of exosmosis along the Romance–Germanic language border in Belgium (R. van Hout, J. Kruijsen and M. Gerritsen). Finally, section 4 presents eight different studies that focus on forensic linguistics, outlined in further detail below. This varied book reflects Maite’s widespread research interests and embraces interaction between different areas of her research.

We Have the Word covers several topics adequately, although it is the fourth section that constitutes, in my opinion, the core of the book. This makes sense for one simple reason: Maite was a pioneer in forensic linguistic research in Spain. Of course, we do not wish to downplay the other three sections, which are of high standard and appealing as well. This fourth section compiles a number of studies on forensic linguistics, but in section 2, which focuses on the English language, there is also one chapter dealing with forensic linguistics, and one of the two reviews underlines Maite Turell’s contribution to the field of forensic linguistics.

The fact that the present review is written for a forensic linguistics journal allows us to focus on the last topic (forensic linguistics), which takes two thirds of the present book. The reader will very much appreciate the different chapters contributed by national and international scholars who worked hand in hand with Maite Turell. A total of eight chapters deal specifically with forensic linguistics. Isabel Verdaguer (section 2, chapter 3) offers a chapter on the use of the passive. Here, personalisation/impersonalisation nuances are analysed based on a corpus of articles on forensic linguistic research. The author attempts to show that, even when it comes to academic texts, passive forms are frequently replaced with active forms with personal pronouns. A qualitative approach to the use of first person pronouns establishes the degree of the author’s presence in the text, as well as the ambiguity and multitasking of personal structures.

Butters, Carter and Kendall (section 4, chapter 1) offer discourse analysis of a fake communicative interaction where somebody pretends to be a child. This ‘child’ would seek out adults who were engaged in forbidden and nasty online exchanges through instant messaging (IM). While the virtual meeting took place, the person in charge of such interaction (a journalist, in fact) would record it in secret. The authors of this chapter analyse the interview between the journalist pretending to be a 13-year old girl and an adult accepting an interchange with her. At the end, the authors question whether such recordings should be taken into account: has the sexual crime been a result of the journalist tempting the adult through seduction and crime incitement or has it been provoked by the offender?

The following chapter, which is on forensic idiolectrometry (section 4, chapter 2), has been written by Maite Turell’s close collaborators Cicres, García, Gavaldà, Marquina, Queralt, López and Spassova, who are members of the ForensicLab, officially created in 2009. They offer an overview of this forensic area and describe their approach to the analysis of discourse style by examining different linguistic levels. They also describe how data is quantified with the aim of making forensic comparisons using the likelihood-ratio index and idiolectal distance.

In section 4, chapter 3 ‘Have you been warned?’, Coulthard analyses a civil claim for damages against a gas barbecue producer. The plaintiff did not take into account the warnings included in the product’s working instructions where it stated that the BBQ had to be used outdoors. Coulthard was asked to analyse the warnings and see if there were other possible ways of interpreting such warnings to justify the plaintiff installing the barbecue inside the house. Coulthard observed the warning’s terrible phrasing, which was a Chinese-English version. He focused in particular on the word ‘installing’. As a result, Coulthard stated that the plaintiff could have misinterpreted and understood that the appliance could be used inside the house.

Given the context and objectives of police interrogation, there is no doubt that research into its complex linguistic phenomena is of importance. It seems that not complying with some of Grice’s maxims does not always imply that the witness or suspect is lying to avoid being found guilty, and just because his/her answers are clearly ambiguous it does not mean that he/she is unwilling to cooperate. M.J. Lorenzo and M.L. Vázquez (section 4, chapter 4) state the witnesses’ reasons for avoiding answering by using linguistic strategies can be very diverse. Studying such linguistic strategies could help clarify the truth, which argues for collaboration between linguistic experts and police.

Are languages plain enough to allow us to clearly interpret what is said? What part of what we initially express could potentially be reinterpreted? Solan attempts to evaluate these questions under ‘Judging Language Plain’ (section 4, chapter 5). Language is not always plain, he states. He analyses several problems, asserting that, in such cases, any legal approach considering language to be plain will fail. The chapter discusses, for example, statutory interpretation ambiguity, the prevalence of borderline cases because of the lack of prototypical events that do not allow using categorical judgments, and legislative errors that question the primacy of language.

Santoyo and Fuertes’s chapter (section 4, chapter 6) intends to combine qualitative and quantitative analysis to detect plagiarism in translated literature pieces and to determine the admissible percentage of similitude. A study of four translations of Orwell’s Animal Farm was conducted. This study discusses the results obtained after quantifying similarities in vocabulary (which was expected to vary across different versions) among the four translation versions. It also analyses qualitative similarities among the four translations in terms of the translation strategies. The results indicate that addition/extension, omission and error were less dependent on the original text than other strategies.

Chris Heffer discusses an interesting subject related to textual deception used in classified ads for cars (section 4, chapter 7). In classified ads for second-hand cars, second-hand car sellers would not reveal that they were ‘professionals’ in the trade. The author states that such textual tricks are easily detected and that there is a particular ‘professional seller style’ which is different from individual sellers. The author offers a list of style aspects, some of them analysed in detail: a more distant style, containing technical or legal terms, and full of criticism when evaluating a car. Heffer remarks that each aspect of this style would not be valid on its own, but rather a combination makes it possible to determine whether the individual sellers’ ads are authored by a professional seller.

Roger Shuy (section 4, chapter 8) is the one who closes this book’s tribute in honour of Maite Turell, our colleague and friend. He goes back to the DeLorian case analysis and states that when a large number of oral recordings of a trial are analysed, we must start by analysing the major language units in order to contextualise those nested by them, such as phrases or words. Expert linguists and different police and law procedure parties have different views of the same linguistic evidence. During a trial, when it comes to major linguistic evidence, Shuy suggests the following order: speech events, schemas, agendas (topics and responses), speech acts and conversational strategies, syntax, lexicon morphemes and sounds.

The fifth section of this book contains two reviews: the first one, by John Gibbons, stresses the importance of Maite Turell’s contribution in the forensic field, while M. Luz Celaya focuses on the book Multilingualism in Spain edited by Maite in 2001. Back then, this type of study was still very unusual, and she emphasises the importance of its innovative nature.

The tabula laudatio is a very touching section. Here, authors specialised in diverse areas of applied linguistics honour Maite as a person, Maite as a linguist, Maite as a professional, Maite as a professor. Maite’s figure and her legacy constitute, therefore, the common thread of this book. Thanks to Maite Turell’s editors, colleagues and students, we have access to her tribute through very interesting and relevant contributions of professionals who knew Maite’s research and who have closely collaborated with her.


[1]. I would like to thank Mercedes Reigosa from the Forensic Acoustics Lab of the Spanish Scientific Police Department, who met Maite and who has also gladly assisted me with this book review.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy