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Corpus Approaches to Forensic Linguistics

Unit(s) of assessment: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

Research theme: Safety and Security of Citizens and Society

School: School of Arts and Humanities


This academic research project is part of the Centre for the Study of Inequality, Culture and Difference.

Forensic Linguistics—the analysis of language in the law, evidence, crime and justice—is a burgeoning field of linguistic enquiry. Since its inception proper in the mid-1990s, the field now has dedicated to it: a number of introductory textbooks and handbooks (some now in their second editions); two international journals with one approaching its thirtieth year; an association which holds annual international and regional conferences; and undergraduate and postgraduate modules and courses across the world. The growing popularity and status of forensic linguistics is also reflected in the regularity with which stories and events with direct relevance to the field are picked up by the media and in popular culture more widely.

Corpus linguistics refers to a set of methodological tools and techniques used in analysing large datasets of language. Such methods are widely employed in some areas of linguistics, such as discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and applied linguistics. Despite its increasing popularity, corpora have been largely absent in this development of forensic linguistics and corpus linguistic techniques have been scarcely used and remain under-utilised.

This project, therefore, aims to identify, develop and enhance the application of corpus tools and techniques in forensic contexts, to address a wide range of social issues.

Addressing the Challenge

This project addresses a number of socio-legal problems through corpus linguistic methods. These range from the allocation of blame and responsibility in Public Inquiries, the analysis of illicit online communication and communities, the language of advocacy in the courtroom and the exploration of new ways of understanding the public’s relationship and perception of the criminal justice system.


This work is being undertaken by Dr David Wright.

Making a Difference

The primary output from this project will be a research monograph, published by Routledge. In addition, there are a number of articles and chapters in press and in review which apply corpus methods in forensic and legal contexts outlined above. These research outputs will form the basis of new and continuing collaboration between linguistics and law, psychology, criminology and journalism within and beyond NTU. The research will provide evidence-based cases for changing policy and practice to enhance the relationship between law and society.

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