BA English Language and Japanese / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Forensic Linguistics

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA31632
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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
Stylistics of English LELA21512 Pre-Requisite Recommended
From Text to Linguistic Evidence LELA10402 Pre-Requisite Recommended


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 attribution

Week 5. Forensic authorship profiling

Week 6. Textual borrowing and plagiarism

Week 7. Language crimes

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.

Lectures and supporting materials will be made available on Blackboard.

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

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. Above all, students will learn how to carry out independent research and to solve real-life problems.

Assessment methods

Assessment TaskFormative or SummativeWeighting
Group PresentationFormative 
Group PresentationSummative30%
Coursework PortfolioSummative70%



Feedback methods

 Feedback method Formative or Summative
 Group presentation feedback Formative
 Mock exam feedback Formative
 Written feedback for coursework Summative


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
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrea Nini Unit coordinator

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