Creating Language Crimes: How Law Enforcement Uses (and Misuses) Language

Creating Language Crimes: How Law Enforcement Uses (and Misuses) Language

Creating Language Crimes: How Law Enforcement Uses (and Misuses) Language

Creating Language Crimes: How Law Enforcement Uses (and Misuses) Language

Synopsis

This book by Roger W. Shuy, the senior figure in forensic linguistics, is the first to explain in an accessible way the vital role that linguistic evidence and its proper analysis play in criminal investigations. Shuy provides compelling case studies of how language functions in investigations involving, among others, wired undercover operatives, and the interrogation of suspects. He makes the point that language evidence can be as important as physical evidence, but yet does not enjoy the same degree of scrutiny by investigators, attorneys, and the courts. Beyond this, however, his more controversial thesis is that police frequently misuse or manipulate language, using various powerful controversial strategies, in order to intentionally create an impression of the targets' guilt or even to get them to confess. This book makes its case by analyzing a dozen criminal cases involving a variety of crimes, such as fraud, bribery, stolen property, murder, and others.About half involve co-operating witnesses who do the tape recording, and the other half undercover police officers. These cases demonstrate how undercover operatives use different conversational strategies, such as overlapping conversation, ambiguity, interruption, refusing to take "no" for an answer, and others to create a negative impression of the targets on later listeners. Creating Language Crimes provides a fascinating window into a little-known and discussed facet of law enforcement. It will appeal to anyone concerned with language (particularly sociolinguists and discourse analysts), as well as to those involved in law enforcement and criminal cases.

Excerpt

Linguistics has been a wonderful life-framework for me. I can think of no field of study that is broader or has more relationships with the rest of human existence, since language is involved in virtually all of human activity. It is the primary and essential medium for conducting business, health, education, diplomacy, philosophy, politics, religion, and, as I show in this book, law. It is also important in areas where its influence is less suspected, such as art, music, and even in mathematics and the hard sciences. Sir Francis Bacon once claimed that all knowledge should be our province. The field of linguistics, with its broad-ranging potential, surely must come close to this. Many of the ideas found in this book come from my thirty-year association with Georgetown University, especially with my good friends and linguistic colleagues there, Deborah Tannen, Ralph Fasold, Deborah Schiffrin, and Heidi Hamilton. They, of course, are not to be held responsible for any of my misunderstandings or misstatements of their work here.

This book grows out of my twenty-five years of working with attorneys on criminal and civil cases. I stumbled into the application of linguistics to the legal setting quite by accident, while chatting with a lawyer sitting next to me on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Dallas early in 1979. Since that time I’ve consulted on some five hundred cases and testified at trial in a little over a tenth of them. I owe what little I know about . . .

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