International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 1, No 1 (1994)

On the use of corpora in the analysis of forensic texts

Malcolm Coulthard
Issued Date: 18 Feb 2013


Twenty-five years ago Jan Svartvik published The Evans Statements: A Case For Forensic Linguistics in which he demonstrated that disputed parrs of a series of four statements, which had been dictated to police officers by Timothy Evans and incriminated him in the murder of his wife, had a measurably different grammatical style from the uncontested parrs and a new discipline was born. Initially its growth was slow; in unexpected places there appeared isolated articles in which the author, often a distinguished linguist, analysed disputed confessions, commented on purported records of interaction, evaluated the ability of ordinary people to understand legal language or challenged the authenticity of non-native-like language attributed to immigrants or aboriginals (see Levi, 1994 for references). There was, however, in those early days no attempt to establish a discipline or even a methodology for forensic linguistics - the work was usually undertaken as an intellectual challenge and almost always required the creation, rather than simply the application , of a method of analysis. By contrast, in the past five years, there has been a rapid growth in the frequency with which courts in a series of countries have called on linguists as expert witnesses, and, in consequence, there is now a developing methodology and a growing number of linguists who act as expert witnesses, a few even on a full-time basis (see Levi, this volume).

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v1i1.27


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