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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