Robert Leonard Associates’ forensic linguists conduct in-depth, multi-level analysis on many types of language evidence.
Types of language evidence analyzed in recent cases:
- Undercover recordings
- Threatening letters
- Disinformation letters
- Written contracts
- Interview and hiring documents
- Instant messages
- Medical records and treatment notes
- Web logs
- Spoken threats, promises, and warnings
Authors often seek to mask their writing (similar, perhaps, to someone trying to be careful not to leave fingerprints), or attempt to attribute the writing to other persons (analogous to an attempt to leave someone else’s fingerprints). However, the underlying structure and attributes of the writing sample’s origins can often be detected, and the actual author identified.
Examples of linguistic investigative features that can aid identification:
- Vocabulary usage
- Grammar, fluency
- Narrative structure
- Punctuation, spelling
- Underlying native language
- Register type (e.g. letter, ransom note)
- Formality level
- Semantic and pragmatic strategies
- Peculiarities of style
Some specific applications of forensic linguistics to litigation and investigations:
Linguistic Demographic Profile
What does the language tell about the writer or speaker? Language patterns can vary by geographical region, age, gender, educational level, social group, and other demographic features.
Authorship Analysis of sets of writings
For example, who wrote document X? Did the same person write both document X and document Y?
Analysis of criminal activities committed through language
Bribery, extortion, solicitation, perjury, etc. For example, were certain statements threats, or do they fall within standard business negotiation?
Meaning of contracts and statutes
For example, does analysis of context support one interpretation over another? Do accepted lexicographic practices support the meaning claimed for words in a contract? How may we discern “ordinary” meaning?
Analysis and evaluation of confessions
For example, could the defendant have written what is claimed to be his confession? Is the document claimed to be a confession actually an admission of guilt?
Language and memory
Disparity between audio and written court records
Covert and other tape recorded evidence analysis
Secret language and code analysis; slang and jargon
Problems arising from translation and interpretation; from different languages, and from different dialects
Lip-reading interpretations of videotapes
Readability and information presentation of instructions and warnings