We are a US-based team of expert linguists led by Robert A. Leonard, PhD. We research, analyze, write reports, and testify in civil and criminal cases involving evidence in the form of spoken or written language.

Read a New Yorker article highlighting Dr. Leonard’s work

Article in The New Yorker by Jack Hitt, focused on Dr. Leonard’s work using forensic linguistics in murder cases.

Listen to Dr. Leonard speak on forensic linguistics

Dr. Leonard speaks as a guest on a Vanderbilt Law School podcast on the law of evidence and proof.

Read a law review article by Dr. Leonard

Article in the Hofstra Law Review on applying the science of linguistics to issues of the law.

Watch Dr. Leonard give a presentation on forensic linguistics

Keynote address for the Language and the Law conference in 2018.

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
  • Emails
  • Instant messages
  • Signage
  • Medical records and treatment notes
  • Confessions
  • Web logs
  • Wills
  • Spoken threats, promises, and warnings
  • Trademarks

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
  • Regionalisms
  • 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

  • Text analysis

  • Disparity between audio and written court records

  • Covert and other tape recorded evidence analysis

  • Jury instructions

  • 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

  • Plagiarism/copyright infringement

  • Trademark disputes