Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Malcolm Coulthard and Alison Johnson 2007: An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence

Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Malcolm Coulthard and Alison Johnson 2007: An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence

Article excerpt

Malcolm Coulthard and Alison Johnson 2007: An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence. London and New York: Routledge. 237 pp. ISBN 978-0-415-32023

In many countries around the world Forensic Linguistics is now a well defined, well established discipline which seeks to uncover and establish the existing interplay between linguistic and legal issues. The discipline of 'Forensic Linguistics/Language and the Law' has consolidated in the last twenty years from the point of view of both research and teaching programmes, and through this consolidation the discipline has emerged as multidisciplinary in nature.

Many forensic linguists like to trace the birth of Forensic Linguistics back to the publication in 1968 of The Evans Statements: A Case for Forensic Linguistics, by Jan Svartvik, who showed that the disputed parts of Evans' confessions were linguistically very different from the non-disputed parts. Also, as Coulthard and Johnson mention (5), "almost 20 years earlier, the term forensic English was used by F.A. Philbrick in the title of his book on legal English, Language and the Law: the Semantics of Forensic English (1949), but the phrase was never taken up".

During the sixties, the seventies and the eighties, mainly in the US and Canada, lawyers, judicial police and other professionals devoted to the investigation of crime had been requesting linguists to use their expertise in relation to issues which have to do with the interface between language and the law. However, their performance was isolated and their methodology not established within parameters of validity and reliability. In Europe pioneer studies on Forensic Linguistics can be traced back to 1985, primarily in Birmingham, when experts were called into court to contribute their expertise in handwriting analysis and authorship attribution of both spoken and written texts. Thus, forensic studies in the UK were in their infancy and in other countries such as Spain they were non-existent, except for certain isolated practices by university scholars such as Enrique Alcaraz, who contributed to Forensic Linguistics in the area of legal translation and interpreting.

Prior to the founding of the International Association of Forensic Linguists (IAFL), forensic linguists, mainly from Europe, met at conferences in diverse European universities between 1988 and 1992. The First British Seminar on Forensic Linguistics, which took place at the University of Birmingham in 1992, assembled delegates from Australia, Brazil, Eire, Holland, Greece, Ukraine and Germany as well as the UK. Among them there was consensus that an international association was needed and thus it could be said that from that seminar the IAFL was born (http://www.iafl.org).

However, it was not until the nineties that Forensic Linguistics emerged more forcefully. The experts' performance became much more professionalized; there was an outstanding increase in the publication of articles and chapters on a number of forensic linguistic themes, whose content was much more methodologically grounded than before; the International Association of Forensic Phonetics (now named the International Association of Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics) was founded in 1991 and the International Association of Forensic Linguists was backed and founded by Malcolm Coulthard in 1992. Finally, also under Coulthard's leadership, a journal of Forensic Linguistics/Language and the Law was created in 1994. The journal underwent several changes of title and publishers and is now published by Equinox as The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law. With the turn of the century Forensic Linguistics came of age: Firstly, our journal has reached its 15th year of publication and many articles on Forensic Linguistics/Language and the Law have been published in specialist journals; Second, Eight biennial IAFL conferences and many other regional conferences have been held. …

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