Forensic Linguistics: Finding a Murderer Through Text Messages

Malcolm Coulthard teaches Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, Birmingham. And, in case you’re wondering what this means, forensic linguistics is all about “taking linguistic knowledge, methods and insight, and applying these to the forensic context of law, investigation, trial, punishment and rehabilitation.” Or solving crimes, in short.  This may sound rather dry, but when Professor Coulthard talks about his work we get a fascinating glimpse into what forensic linguistics looks like in practice. In the video above, an excerpt from his inaugural lecture at Aston University (watch the full version here), Coulthard explains how the analysis of text messages helped solve a recent murder case. This puts him on the new frontier of police work.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC, Tim Grant, Deputy Director at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, explains how his team’s analysis of documents and writings can help police with their investigations. The video does not work in all regions, but there is a transcript below the video.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.



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  1. Natasha says . . . | August 24, 2011 / 11:59 pm

    Amazing!! His wife teaches me at the University of Birmingham, and one of his Phd students taught me forensic linguistics.

    There’s an episode of Bones where this kind of thing is proved really well!!

    Made my day this did. :)

  2. Kevin says . . . | August 26, 2011 / 8:11 am

    Natasha -

    What episodes of Bones was that?

    Being a Linguistics graduate student I would be interested to check it out!

    Thanks!

  3. ALHASSAN GARUBA says . . . | September 8, 2011 / 9:27 am

    I HLD A MASTER’S DEGREE IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND WOULD LIKE TO HAVE SOME TRAINING IN FORENSIC LINGUISTICS

  4. ALHASSAN GARUBA says . . . | September 8, 2011 / 9:35 am

    I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE TRAINING IN THIS FIELD. I HOLD A MASTER DEGREE IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

  5. Marcus Adams Inaede says . . . | April 10, 2012 / 2:25 am

    I am an undergraduate of a reputable university in Nigeria.Studing English language.Need reference area on forensic linguistics for my project.

  6. matina says . . . | September 28, 2012 / 6:46 am

    I am student of linguistics in Iran and my thesis is about forensic linguistics so I need some references of forensic linguistics .

    Thank you so much.

  7. Akanni Abdullateef says . . . | November 21, 2012 / 4:38 pm

    I am a student of english from the University of Abuja, Nigeria. Am researching into Authorship Identification. I need reference materials on forensic linguistics for this research. Thank you.

  8. Nick Birch says . . . | January 23, 2013 / 6:32 am

    Thanks for the complimentary review. Sadly, we are no longer using that YouTube account so your embedded video’s disappeared. You can still see the whole lecture by Malcolm Coulthard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBrmMAdsR8c, and for more information about Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, go here – http://www.forensiclinguistics.net/cfl_about.html

  9. gift says . . . | March 27, 2013 / 2:34 am

    Is it possible to do research work on forensic linguistics pertaining to divorce and separation. And if yes, how

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