Every once in a while, we all get presented with a labyrinth of riddles.
Lines and lines of tongue twisting words get thrust upon us, jumping off the page and wreaking havoc with our uninspired brains.
And this assortment of words are crammed together for one purpose…to legitimise the law!
If you don’t know what I mean, just think of a time you made a purchase online. That seemingly never ending page of terms of conditions is just one of the many examples of legal linguistics.
All headaches aside, words are a powerful legal tool and on the side of those enforcing the law, can prove very useful in bringing criminals to justice!
Admittedly, legal language is confusing. However do not despair, because we can get to grips with this literary minefield through the study of Forensic Linguistics.
Luckily, we happen to know a leading lecturer of Forensic Linguistics who teaches at Edge Hill University. Her name is Ann Ellis, and she was happy to talk about her experience with legal lingo and offer advice.
In a nutshell how would you define forensic linguistics?
Forensic linguistics (sometimes referred to as legal linguistics or language and the law) is the application of linguistic knowledge, methods and insights to the context of law, crime investigation, trial, and judicial procedure. It is a branch of applied linguistics.
When did you first become interested in the study of forensic linguistics and why?
I became interested in forensic linguistics in 2005 when I was studying for a master’s degree in applied linguistics. I found the discipline fascinating and began to attend related conferences, where I became more aware of the range of topics that were being studied under the forensic linguistic umbrella. Although I was teaching English at that time, I had not realised just how powerful a tool an understanding of how language works is.
Have you worked as a forensic linguist in the past? What did this entail?
Forensic linguistics is a very wide ranging discipline and my interest in it has been related to police writing. I have made a study of how police officers write and have developed training based on those studies. I have delivered papers on my research at policing conferences as well as linguistic ones.
I have not acted as an expert witness in a criminal case as this is not a path I wish to go down. However, I have helped and advised individual officers by carrying out analysis on an informal basis and if necessary, signposting them towards an expert in a particular area.
What would a career in forensic linguistics entail and how would individuals find work in this area?
Because forensic linguistic evidence is being used increasingly across a range of cases, there are a number of linguists who are working as professional consultants. Some are called upon by the police but others are working in specialist areas such as insurance fraud, authorship comparison, money laundering and code breaking (to name but a few areas.)
Many forensic linguists are also university lecturers who have an expertise in linguistic analysis, but increasingly linguistic experts are being employed by large companies to work within their legal departments.
Alongside her work at Edge Hill University, Ann has developed a course for NCC Home Learning. Our Diploma in Forensic Linguistics allows you to indulge your interest, and in part two of Ann’s interview, you will discover how our course can allow you to pursue a career in language and the law.