Forensic Linguistics: Language as Evidence

“Every contact leaves a trace”, the basic principle of Forensic Science by Dr. Edmond Locard (Also known as Locard’s Principle)

The application of ‘Forensic Science’ in civil and criminal investigations plays a vital role. It allows collecting, preserving and analyzing evidence in a scientific manner and includes expert testimonies to support the forensic investigation conducted.

The basis of forensic science is to study and analyze the ‘Principle Component’ of the evidence collected and preserved and apply scientific methods to gather artifacts. There are several sub-divisions/domains of the forensic science, one of which is ‘Forensic Linguistics’.

Forensic Linguistics is a measured and systematic analysis of language (written or spoken) which can help many different professionals especially law enforcement agencies; in:

  • Understanding language of the written law
  • Understanding language use in forensic and judicial processes
  • The provision of linguistic evidence

Within the purview of forensic linguistics the experts will also possess the acumen to analyze the written documents (relevant to the case and admissible in the court for instance: suicide note, social media content, IPR issues etc) and video and audio statements and records (for instance: emergency calls (fake or genuine) and ransom calls or threat calls etc).

This sub-domain of forensic science will generate such forensic artifacts which will assist the lawmakers and other actors to evaluate the truth when a crime has been committed, from a completely different perspective and remaining within the scope of the law as well.

The concept of forensic linguistics is new but is trusted and accepted in the law in the United Kingdom. In a recent incident, a forensic linguistics expert gave his testimony in a criminal investigation, where the murderer was caught based on the ‘punctuation’ used in the text messages sent from the victim’s mobile phone. Read more here.     

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