MA Linguistics / Course details
Year of entry: 2020
Course unit details:
|Unit level||FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Offered by||Linguistics & English Language|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This course introduces students to forensic linguistics and, more specifically, to the use of linguistics to provide evidence in criminal or civil cases. When language becomes evidence in a forensic case, a linguist can be called as an expert witness regarding various matters, such as, for example, the authorship of a text, the meaning of a particular word or phrase, or the modality of production of a text. The use of linguistic knowledge and methods can provide these answers and the aim of the course is to demonstrate how this can be done. Through the use of lectures and seminars, the course will develop the theoretical and applied knowledge for the students to carry out forensic linguistic analyses on real cases. In addition, students will learn the implications of this type of work for the field of linguistics in general.
The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:
• To learn how to apply linguistics to solve forensic problems
• To know the state of the art of forensic linguistics
• To understand basic concepts of individuality in language production
• To be able to choose the correct linguistic techniques for the analysis of an applied problems
• To understand the most important linguistic characteristics of forensic texts
The syllabus below is an indication only:
Week 1. Introduction
Week 2. The birth of Forensic Linguistics
Week 3. Idiolect and uniqueness of encoding
Week 4. Authorship analysis
Week 5. Textual borrowing and plagiarism
Week 6. Language crimes
Week 7. Using sociolinguistics in forensic cases
Week 8. Determination of meaning in criminal cases
Week 9. Determination of meaning in civil cases
Week 10. Trademark disputes
Week 11. Revision
Teaching and learning methods
The teaching for the course will include lectures and a seminar in which a real-life case will be examined using the techniques and tools currently adopted by forensic linguists. Students will work independently on this case and report on their work during each seminar.
Knowledge and understanding
• Have an understanding of the basic methodologies to analyse texts in a forensic context
• Have an understanding of the register characteristics of malicious forensic texts
• Know the history of forensic linguistics
• Know the main findings related to key cases in forensic linguistics
• Understand the state of the art of individuality in language production
• Critically evaluate the literature regarding forensic linguistics
• Critically evaluate conclusions of a forensic linguistic analysis
• Be able to describe the language of a malicious forensic text
• Develop professional knowledge in the application of linguistic theory to naturally occurring texts
• Apply linguistic methods to solve forensic problems
• Develop professional knowledge in the analysis of texts for forensic purposes
• Develop general knowledge of the provision of evidence in court
Transferable skills and personal qualities
• Develop general problem solving skills
• Develop the verbal and written abilities to express conclusions
• Be able to apply linguistic theories to solve real-word problems
• Develop general knowledge of investigation procedures
- Analytical skills
- Problem solving
Formative or Summative
Written feedback for coursework
Coulthard, M., & Johnson, A. 2007. An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics. London: Routledge
McMenamin, G. R. 2002. Forensic Linguistics: Advances in Forensic Stylistics. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press.
Olsson, J. 2003. Forensic Linguistics: An Introduction to Language, Crime and the Law. London: Continuum.
Shuy, R. 1996. Language Crimes: Use and Abuse of Language Evidence in the Court Room. Oxford: Blackwell.
Solan, L. M., & Tiersma. P. M. 2005. Speaking of Crime: The Language of Criminal Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Practical classes & workshops||5|
|Independent study hours|
|Andrea Nini||Unit coordinator|
With this course, students will learn skills that can be useful for applied linguistics and legal or investigative jobs. The kinds of skills used to analyse forensic texts can enhance the students’ problem solving and critical abilities in employing linguistic theories to solve applied problems. As such, this course can help students to creatively employ their knowledge. Through the learning of the legal process and the role of linguistics in it, students can develop skills to then work within legal settings. Above all, students will learn how to carry out independent research and to solve real-life problems.
Previous knowledge of corpus linguistics and sociolinguistics (to be discussed with module convenor).