BA Linguistics / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Forensic Linguistics in English

Unit code LELA31631
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
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 is 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.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
LELA20072 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


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

Learning outcomes




The syllabus below is an indication only:
Week 1. Introduction to Forensic Linguistics
Week 2. The birth of Forensic Linguistics
Week 3. Idiolect and linguistic uniqueness
Week 4. Forensic authorship analysis
Week 5. Forensic authorship profiling
Week 6. Language crimes
Week 7. Textual borrowing and plagiarism
Week 8. Issues of meaning
Week 9. Linguistic evidence for trademark cases
Week 10. The linguist as expert witness
Week 11. Revision

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching for the course will include lectures and seminars in which case studies will be examined using the techniques and tools currently adopted by forensic linguists. Each week students will present their findings on a case introduced the week before. The first two seminars will be tutorials in a computer lab aimed at familiarising students with some of the corpus linguistic tools used in class.

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

Intellectual skills

  • 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

Practical skills

  • 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 

Employability skills

Analytical skills
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.
Problem solving
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.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Group presentation – Students will present on two tasks involving the analysis of real-life data about topics explored in class.


2 x 15 minutes


Mock exam – This is a mock exam that the student can take around week 6 to familiarise themselves with the format of the final exam. The mock exam will be on Blackboard and does not have to be taken on campus.




Portfolio – “Choose two case studies from the ones we have covered in the seminars and write down a report for each of them including a description of the problem, your methodology, your results, and a critical discussion.”




Exam – The final exam is a Blackboard online exam quiz that involves a range of different types of questions, from multiple choice to short answers. The exam may include questions about the use of computational tools seen in class. The exam will have to be taken in a computer lab on campus.


1.5 hour




Assessment task



1.5 hour


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Group presentation feedback


Mock exam feedback


Written feedback for coursework and exam



Recommended reading

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.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrea Nini Unit coordinator

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