EL6052 - Forensic Linguistics

What will I learn on this module?

Forensic Linguistics is the application of language analysis to forensically relevant texts for the purposes of advancing justice.

Referring to real life cases throughout, this module explores and critically analyses language used in legal contexts. First it focuses on written legal language, including critically reflecting on the kinds of communicative problems these texts might create for ordinary people. Students will conduct analyses of texts such as police cautions, insurance policies, consumer contracts, and jury instructions.

It moves on to examine the spoken language of the legal process, drawing on data from a wide range of sources such as police interviews and the courtroom. Students will consider the problems of vulnerable suspects and witnesses, including children, victims of sexual assault, non-native speakers of English, and individuals with specific communicative impairments. The module will conclude with consideration of the linguist as an expert witness, exploring the types of cases in which forensic linguists have been able to offer assistance.

The module will build upon skills acquired at Levels 4 & 5 in the description of written and spoken interaction, and will provide a detailed introduction to an important area of Applied Linguistics.

How will I learn on this module?

You will be taught through 12 weeks of classes. Each week you will have a one-hour class introducing you to a topic, followed by a separate two-hour workshop in which you undertake practical analysis, discussion, and/or other activities in relation to this topic.

Class breakdown
Week 1: 1 ½ hour class
Weeks 2-11: 1 hour class + 2 hour seminar
Week 12: 1 ½ hour class

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The module tutor will discuss the assessment in class, providing class-based practice of the ideas that underpin the assessment, and meeting with students on a one-to-one basis to give feedback on their assignment plan before they write and submit their final assignment.
The module handbook provides details of weekly seminars, reading lists and assessment criteria. The module tutor will be available in each class, as well as in office hours and on email/phone, to discuss any queries or concerns you have about how to excel academically on the module. There will also be a Blackboard site devoted to the module.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Enhanced appreciation of interface between language and the law
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. Enhanced ability to engage in self-managed research
3. Enhanced ability to conduct detailed linguistic analysis
4. Skills in presenting research

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Curiosity and awareness of relevance of linguistic analysis in a multitude of legal contexts.

How will I be assessed?

1. Formative assessment: 500 words outlining plans for summative assessment.
Feedback will come in the form of class discussion with tutor and peers.
MLO 1, 5
2. Summative assessment:
3500 word case study chosen from a
list of topics provided by the tutor
Feedback will be generated in the form of notes on the script and a detailed summary provided on the standard feedback sheet, which you are then most welcome to discuss in person during feedback and consultation hours.
MLO 1,2,3,4,5





Module abstract

Forensic linguistics as it is broadly defined encompasses (i) the study of the language of legal texts, such as statutes and contracts, (ii) the study of the language of spoken legal processes such as police interviews and courtroom trials, and (iii) the use of linguistic analysis as evidence or to provide assistance to criminal investigations. In this module, students are led through these core areas, focusing on the nature of language used in a variety of legal contexts, from the caution delivered at the point of arrest, through police interviews to examination and cross-examination in court and instructions issued to juries prior to deliberation. Students conduct their own analyses of texts taken from genuine cases. The module encourages students to think critically about legal language, and familiarises them with the diversity of possibilities for applying their critical and analytical skills in the world of work.

Course info

UCAS Code Q310

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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