Skip to main content

Introduction: Theory and Practice in Forensic Linguistics

  • 283 Accesses


The chapter first establishes some basic conceptual distinctions regarding activities in the field of law and language. It argues that legal linguistics and forensic linguistics are very separate pursuits in significant respects and must not be conflated under the same umbrella. The chapter briefly looks at the development of forensic linguistics. It aims at situating forensic linguistics in the context of forensic science and trace theory, stressing the logical and procedural steps in turning a potential trace of a crime into a status of evidence at court. As a scientific pursuit, forensic linguistics has to answer questions about how to guarantee its status as a truly scientific discipline on a par with other science-based disciplines, like forensic medicine or biology. Forensic linguistics raises questions about the training requirements for the expert linguist and scientific methodological approaches to language as evidence. Finally, the chapter provides an overview of the book’s contents, situating them in the grid of the preceding perspectives.


  • Applied science
  • Evidence
  • Forensic linguistics
  • Legal linguistics
  • Meaning
  • Pragmatics
  • Quantitative
  • Analysis
  • Science
  • Scientific
  • Trace
  • Training

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-84330-4_1
  • Chapter length: 33 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-84330-4
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1.1


  1. 1.

    A much earlier case of an application of professional linguistic knowledge to the resolution of a crime of falsification with major political consequences for the political power of the Pope in the middle age was brought to our attention by Emma Stein: the ‘Donation of Constantineʼ was shown by Lorenzo Valla—priest and early linguist—to be a falsification (Harari, 2017, p. 263f).

  2. 2.

    “Der vorliegende Band müßte eigentlich “Texte zu Praxis und Theorie..” heißen; diese Formel gibt es im Deutschen aber wie den Ausdruck “Stand der Praxis” nicht. …Der Band möchte nämlich,…zur Konsolidierung “forensischer Linguistik”, eines konstituierenden Teilfachs der Angewandten Linguistik, beitragen.” (Kniffka, 1990, p. IX).

  3. 3.

    As a concrete example for the discrepancy between different types of witnesses and laboratory experiments in the case of veracity evaluation of with respect to lying ‘cluesʼ see Hettler (2012, p. 144).

  4. 4.

    That this is seen as a general issue in psychology—and linguistics is to be included here—is formulated as follows: ‘the reliance on laboratory research has had a profound negative effect on the discipline, retarding our understanding of many psychological phenomena in the forensic field. In the title to this chapter I used the term “methodolotry”. I use the term to characterize the reliance among psychologists on the use of standard experimental design in laboratory-based research (…) This method—conducting research in a relatively sterile context and manipulating some factors while other factors are controlled—is the dominant method of conducting psychological research.ʼ (Yuille, 2013, p. 3)

  5. 5.

    Cf Hettler (2012) for a discussion of theoretical and methodological issues in procedures used in psychological veracity evaluation.


  • Ainsworth, J., & Juola, P. (2019). Who wrote this?: Modern forensic authorship analysis as a model for valid forensic science. Washington University Law Review, 96(5), 1161–1189.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chaski, C. (2013). Best practices and admissibility of forensic author identification. Journal of Law & Policy, 21(2), 333–376.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, B., Griesel, D., & Ternes, M. (Eds.). (2013). Applied issues in investigative interviewing, eyewitness memory, and credibility assessment. Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, B., Hugues, F., Herve, F., & Yuille, J. (2014). Evaluating truthfulness: Interviewing and credibility assessment. In G. Bruinsma & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice (pp. 1413–1426). Springer.

  • Coulthard, M., & Johnson, A. (Eds.). (2010). The Routledge handbook of forensic linguistics. Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coulthard, M., Johnson, A., & Wright, D. (Eds.). (2017). An introduction to forensic linguistics: Language in evidence (2nd ed.). Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Delémont, O., Lock, E., & Ribaux, O. (2014). Forensic science and criminal investigation. In G. Bruinsma & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice (pp. 1754–1763). Springer.

  • Fadden, L., & Disner, S. F. (2014). Forensic linguistics. In G. Bruinsma & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice (pp. 1547–1555). Springer.

  • Fobbe, E. (2011). Forensische Linguistik. Eine Einführung. Gunter Narr.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foolen, A. (2019). Quo vadis Pragmatics? From adaptation to participatory sense-making. Journal of Pragmatics, 145, 29–46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibbons, J. (2003). Forensic linguistics. An introduction to language in the justice system. Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibbons, J., & Turell, M. T. (Eds.). (2008). Dimensions of forensic linguistics (AILA Applied Linguistics Series, 5). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harari, Y. N. (2017). Homo Deus. Eine Geschichte von Morgen. Beck.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hazard, D., & Margot, P. (2014). Forensic science culture. In G. Bruinsma & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice (pp. 1782–1795). Springer.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hettler, S. (2012). Wahre und falsche Zeugenaussagen. Evaluation von Zeugenaussagen mit unterschiedlichem Wahrheitsgehalt mittels erweitertem Kanon inhaltlicher Kennzeichen. AV Akedemiker Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kniffka, H. (Ed.). (1990). Texte zu Theorie und Praxis forensischer Linguistik. Niemeyer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leonard, R., Ford, J., & Christensen, T. (2017). Forensic linguistics: Applying the science of linguistics to issues of the law. Hofstra Law Review, 45, 881–897.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lucas, D. (2014). Forensic science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In G. Bruinsma & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice (pp. 1805–1819). Springer.

  • Margot, P. (2011). Commentary on the need for a research culture in the forensic sciences. UCLA Law Review, 58, 725–779.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milroy, J., & Milroy, L. (1999). Authority in language. Investigating standard English (3rd ed.). Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mnookin, J. (2018). The uncertain future of forensic science. DAEDALUS, 147, 99–118.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mnookin, J., et al. (2011). The need for a research culture in the forensic sciences. UCLA Law Review, 58, 725.

  • Muschalik, J. (2018). Threatening in English. A mixed method approach. Benjamins. e-Book ISBN: 9789027264633.

  • Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1972). A grammar of contemporary English. Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roux, C., Talbot-Wright, B., Robertson, J., Crispino, F., & Ribeaux, O. (2015). The end of the (forensic science) world as we know it? The example of trace evidence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 370, 20140260.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smolka, J., & Pirker, B. (2016). International law and pragmatics—An account of interpretation in international law. International Journal of Language and Law, 5, 1–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sources of Language and Law.

  • Stein, D. (2021). Sprache und Recht: das Recht als Forschungsobjekt der Sprachwissenschaft. In E. Vogenauer (Ed.), Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit und Rechtssprache Festschrift für Volker Triebel. Beck.

    Google Scholar 

  • Svartvik, J. (1968). The Evans statements: A case for forensic linguistics. University of Göteborg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tiersma, P., & Solan, L. (Eds.). (2012). The Oxford handbook of language and law. Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vogel, F. (ed.) 2019. Legal linguistics beyond borders: Language and law in a world of media, globalisation and social conflicts. In Berlin, Duncker, & Humblot (Eds.), Relaunching the international language and law association (ILLA). ISBN978-3-428-85423-3.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wecht, C., & Rago, J. T. (2006). Forensic science and law. Investigative applications in criminal, civil and family justice. CRC and Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, D., & Carston, R. (2019). Pragmatics and the challenge of ‘non-propositional’ effects. Journal of Pragmatics, 145, 31–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woolls, D. (2002). CopyCatch Gold v2. CL Software. UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yuille, J. (2013). The challenge for forensic memory research: Methodolotry. In B. Cooper, D. Griesel, & M. Ternes (Eds.), Applied issues in investigative interviewing, eyewitness memory, and credibility assessment (pp. 3–19). Springer.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Victoria Guillén-Nieto .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Guillén-Nieto, V., Stein, D. (2022). Introduction: Theory and Practice in Forensic Linguistics. In: Guillén-Nieto, V., Stein, D. (eds) Language as Evidence. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-84329-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-84330-4

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)