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Introduction: Theory and Practice in Forensic Linguistics

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Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

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Fig. 1.1

Notes

  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.

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Correspondence to Victoria Guillén-Nieto .

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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. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84330-4_1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84330-4_1

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