Forensic linguistics

Introduction

Laws are a major contributor of how people behave and how they relate to each other. Our relationships with the people who live around us are molded by the existing laws.

Man’s everyday activities ranging from buying of commodities to selling of products and everything else is done and made formal through a binding law. Law can be written or oral which ever seems convenient to use by the parties involved. Some people sign contracts which are a form of law while others agree orally which itself can also be a form of law if there were people who were specifically invited to witness.

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The law represents a society value system imposing both the required rights and obligations, punishing those who behave against the society will. However, to make these laws succeed and function properly; there is a language which is used (legal language) which enables the exchange of information as well as the understanding of the involved parties easier.

From an institution perspective, law can be described as a linguistic institution. Everything in law is communicated through a specific language (coded) and the concepts of understanding the law itself are coded through the same language. Almost every legal process involves the use of a language.

The legal processes indicated above ranges from proceedings in the courts to investigations conducted by the police and also to the management of prisoners. This is a clear identification that contacts through which we as people are able to communicate with other people are guided and controlled by the language. The language has to be common for the message to be understood since without a common language, people could never understand each other.

Studies investigating the relationship between law and language have been ongoing for several years now with how language is used to get the required information in solving a legal issues being a subject of major interest. It is with the increased interests that the field of forensics linguistic has been introduced to the law sector.

Forensics linguistics involves studying of a language to identify people or parties involved in a certain issue whether criminal and civil in order to solve their problem amicably without some parties being wrongly judged while others are wrongfully acquitted for crimes committed. Forensics linguistics is thus summarized as the use of language in court proceedings or legal issues either to present a case or get evidence from one party (Gibbons, 2).

What is forensics linguistics?

The study of languages is defined as Linguistic. It involves differentiating one language from the other. To understand the different languages, linguistics uses several techniques which include among others the phonetics, morphology and phonology.

Sometimes, each of the above techniques can require different people since they also qualify to be independent fields within linguistics (McDavid, S& McDavid, R 238). Other than the three noted subfields, a new subfield which has gained popularity among the scholars lately has been the forensic linguistics.

A part from forensics linguistics being qualified in the analysis of language, most of them possess other analytical skills such as mathematics, statistics science and the law itself which they have to deal with. The possession of these analytical skills makes analyzing and understanding of both written and spoken language. In return, this increases the chances of making a sound judgment when it is decision time. Forensic language involves the use of legal questions in order to get the important information needed.

Questions as to who initiated the conflict, who wrote a threatening letter to his father, who swore he could do what?

Are examples of questions which are investigated in this field? Professionals in this field address the aspects of the language and the analytical arsenal of linguistics from existing theories such as the speech act theory and thematic theory. To understand the law, one has to understand the language used in a court of law. For example what are statutes, arrest warrants, subpoenas which are among the legal terms mostly used in legal proceedings?

The work of forensic linguistic spans over a wide area ranging from issues dealing with trademarks, plagiarism of the written materials to confessions and hate crimes. In summary, we can indicate that the field of forensic linguistics involves analyzing legal issues through rigorous and scientifically recognized principles of linguistic analysis. It is only after successful analysis that the results are then translated into legal evidence.

What’s the job of forensics linguistics?

A forensic linguistic contributes into solving problems related to linguistic concerns through different ways. They use different techniques since there is no single uniform method of retrieving the required information. For example, forensic linguistics helps in making legal documents easily readable and more comprehensive.

These legal documents include contracts, jury instructions, and agreements among others. By concentrating their efforts in the job at hand, the often complicated language within these documents is simplified and the complicated phrases within the document are made easily understandable by the people previously may not have ad the ability.

Forensic linguistics also help lawyers (attorneys) in explaining clearly to the court of law the legal terms using more commonly used terms as a result making communication between the involved parties even much easier. For example, sometimes linguistics forensics are invited to courts of law or them to testify and clarify the meaning of certain written or spoken words if a dispute arises into the true meaning of the words.

Settling trademark disputes is another function the forensic linguistics engages in. if two parties are in dispute about a certain trademark, it is the work of forensic linguistics to determine who really owns the right to use the trademark. They also investigate the authorship attribution (who wrote or who spoke) of a language.

This includes those who issues threats or those who leave behind suicide notes .In case of suicide notes, the forensic linguistics determines who really wrote the notes. Did the victim write the note or did some other people write the note after killing the man. By analyzing his writing styles and comparing them to other pieces the victim has ever written, these experts are even able to determine whether the note was written through coercion or it was free will.

As part of their job, they help the law enforcing officials in authenticating everything which might be used in solving a dispute whether spoken or written. to achieve genuine end results, forensics linguistic studies the presented information (written or oral) by observing whether there are comparisons or differences which can be noted. They have learnt the art of determining whether the same person made the different recordings.

By analyzing the presented piece of information, forensic linguistics can be able to decide the background of the person and where he comes from. Just by listening or reading the confessions, the forensics linguistics is able to determine whether the confessions were made through use of force or whether the confessions were voluntary. They achieve this through the comparison of the person’s normal speech or normal method of writing to the presented confession.

What they usually look for when investigating documents include similarities in the meaning of the information and how the words or the information is arranged easing the process of identification of the author. Whether there is a possibility that they were written by the same person. Another aspect through which they are able to discover authors of presented articles is through detection of plagiarism.

Plagiarism involves the collection and the comparison of different pieces of information in a bid to determine whether they were written by the same author (they assume that if the author is one, there is likelihood of using similar terms in the different documents). Finally, A forensic linguistic does his job by studying how law enforcers (policemen) interrogate criminals and if notices some difficulties, they assist enabling the two parties communicate effectively by making use of easily understandable terms.

Phonetic linguistic is related and part of forensic linguistics

With the increased importance of video and audio recordings in most of the court proceedings, forensic phonetic has emerged as a new field of importance. Phonetics is defined as the study of the sounds which people make as they pass information from one party to the other when speaking.

The use of the mouth, vocal chords and the nasal cavity is what phonetics study and analyze. Experts in phonetics (phoneticians) research how different people speak. They are therefore able to differentiate and recognize it from others. They analyze similarities and differences of one language from the other through the various sounds people make. McDavid, S& McDavid, R 238).

Just as in the forensic linguistics, phoneticians are also experts from other fields such as physics, medicine, and psychology among other related fields. It is through their expertise in these fields that they are able to conduct their work efficiently. For example, those with expertise in physics are able to study speech sounds by analyzing the sound waves.

They then research into how our body parts such as the brain, ears and nerves respond to different sounds. In the application of this field to legal issues, a phonetician performs forensic speech analysis to determine its source. For example, there have been instances when crimes are committed by criminals whom the victims never saw but they heard their speech.

If they are any audio speech recordings, phoneticians analyze the speech and help in identifying who the real culprits behind the crimes were. They analyze the recorded speech by also trying to clarify what the culprit clearly said. Through their analysis, they are also able to authenticate recordings by studying it intently so as to make sure that the recordings were never altered to favor a particular party.

Though sometimes they use computers to analyze the spoken words, most of the times they listen intently to the audio recordings and try to figure out who were involved. They listen to an audio recording several times, each time trying to analyze and figure out certain qualities within the speech. Their role is not to define what was said but to identify who said what.

Phoneticians analyze the sounds made through four aspects which are: analyzing the sounds made by the vocal chords out of the sound made fro the recorded speech (for example was the voice rough, did the speaker breathe deeply and so on).

The second aspect involves listening to the sounds made by the speaker’s mouth and the nasal cavities. He or she notes the vocal qualities; the pronunciation of vowels is also analyzed and other characteristics which can be able to show the cultural, social and geographical background of the one making the speech.

Lastly, phonetic linguistic analyzes various individual speech characteristics such as the speaker pronunciation of the speaker consonants or whether the speaker slurs or lisps certain words. In addition to all these, phoneticians also conduct the acoustic analysis. This form of analysis involves the digitizing recorded speeches in order to feed them in computer software which is able to measure the frequencies of pitch and vowel sounds.

Examples of crimes and murders through facebook where written message was used to convict the suspects

Social networks are channels through which people meet and discuss almost everything virtually through the internet. People exchange photos, phone numbers and files and even set business agreements through these social networks. There are several social networks in the world which include Facebook, twitter, My Space, my Blog and many other social networks.

Though the social networks have their advantages by providing a platform for all the positive activities mentioned above there has been reported cases of malpractices in which people have lost their information and even lost their loved ones through these social networks.

Concentrating more on Facebook since it more common among the ordinary people, we shall give examples of instances where crimes have occurred through the assistance of Facebook. Due to loss of privacy, social networks are easy to be hacked and the Hackers use social networks to send malwares to unsuspecting users in the internet.

These malwares either launch spam files which are obscene and which if opened infects the computer leading to its crashing. Facebook has also been used as an avenue of committing fraud (MacAfee, 1). For example, in Facebook there has been use of Koobface which is a malicious file that hackers use to spread the codes of viruses and worms to other people computers crushing computer programs.

The crush of computers can lead to loss of important information leading to losses. Hackers also use social sites such as Facebook to access peoples passwords whereby after accessing them, they are able to open the victims account without his knowledge and access precious information which he can use for example in stealing banks and committing crimes.

Another crime which is also prevalent when using social sites and has been experienced in Facebook includes; impostors whom most of the times are jailbirds or sex pests. They tend to lure teenagers especially girls into their traps by organizing meetings in secluded places.

When the unsuspecting individuals agree and decide to meet these criminals, some of them are kidnapped and their families are asked for ransom or after meeting, the victims are raped and then killed. An example is a report which was in the in Independent Newspaper of a case where a serial rapist lured a teenage girl into his trap by posing like a young man, but after their meeting, the girl discovered that the man was not the young man he posed to be.

Discovering problems could arise, the serial rapist informed the girl that she was the son’s father and that his son had informed him to collect her. After the girl agreed to enter into the vehicle, they went with the man only for the man to rape her before killing her and disposing her body. (Hughes& Brown, 1).

There has also been a case of love gone sour through social networks. It is reported that a man was arrested and jailed for killing a former girlfriend after seeing her in a photo with her new lover on Facebook. The man informed the girlfriend through Facebook chat that he would like to meet the girlfriend and they solve their issues although the girlfriend was hesitant at first, she agreed after long pleading and it was when the two met that he decided to kill her stabbing her with a knife several times on her body (Raif, 1)

Conclusion

Linguistics is the scientific study of languages and when used in solving crimes or legal matters, then it is referred to as forensic linguistics. A forensic linguistic contributes into solving problems involved in linguistic concerns through different ways which include observing the patterns, similarities or any inconsistencies in the speech or the written information.

On the other hand, a phonetic linguistics uses mouth, vocal chords and the nasal cavity to study and analyze a language. The emergence of the two fields in linguistics has played a key role in solving crimes by indicating positively without allegations of favoritism towards a particular side.

Works Cited

Gibbons, John. Forensic linguistics: An introduction to language in the justice system.2003. Willey- Blackwell. New York.

Hughes Mark, “Facebook fears after sex offender logged on to murder”. The Independent UK. 2010. 16th May, 2011.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/facebook-fears-after-sex-offender- logged-on-to-murder-1918330.html

Mcaffee, “A Parent’s Guide to Social Networking Sites: Five Lessons to Keep Your Kids Safe when they socialize online”. 2009. 16th May, 2011. http://us.mcafee.com/enus/local/docs/SocialNetworkinge-guide.pdf

McDavid, Susan, and McDavid Richard. Career opportunities in forensic science. 2008. InfoBase Publishing. New York.

Raif Shenai, “Man jailed for killing girlfriend after Facebook row”. 2010. Press Association. 16th May, 2011. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/man-jailed-for-killing-girlfriend-after- facebook-row-1918589.html

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