Forensic Linguistics

Forensic linguistics

Linguistics is the scientific study of language as a human activity. It is concerned both with the structure of language and the ways in which it functions in different settings. There are many fields in linguistics, and one increasingly prominent area of applied research is forensic linguistics. Forensic linguists are most frequently called in to help answer one or both of the following questions: what does a given text “say”? and who is its author? In answering these questions, linguists draw on knowledge and techniques derived from one or more of the sub-fields of descriptive linguistics: phonetics and phonology, lexis syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse, and text analysis.

While each person has a unique style of handwriting, forensic linguistics focuses on the way a person uses a word or phrase rather than the unique characteristics of their handwriting. Determining whether a writing is an imitation can be as simple as understanding that an elementary school student would not use sophisticated words or as complex as determining that a certain word or phrase is specific to a dialect.

Dialectology is the part of forensic linguistics we use the most in the art authentication field. Dialectology, a sub-field of sociolinguistics, is the scientific study of linguistic dialects. It studies variations in language and their associated features based primarily on geographic distribution. Dialectology covers such topics as synchronic variation and the divergence of two local dialects from a common ancestor. Dialectologists are ultimately concerned with grammatical, lexical, and phonological features that correspond to regional areas.

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