Alan Durant is Professor of Communication in the School of Law at Middlesex University, London, where he teaches media and intellectual property law as well as legal method. He was previously Head of English, Cultural and Communication Studies at Middlesex, and before that Professor and Head of English at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. Recent books include Meaning in the Media: Discourse, Controversy and Debate (CUP 2010) and the textbooks Language and Law (co-written with Janny H.C. Leung, Routledge 2016) and Language and Media (co-written with Marina Lambrou, Routledge 2009). An edited collection on topics in law, linguistics and anthropology, Meaning and Power in the Language of Law (co-edited with Janny H.C.Leung) is in press with CUP. Until 2016 Alan convened the ‘Keywords Project’, an investigation of the complexity of contested words in civil society co-funded by Jesus College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Pittsburgh (www.keywords.pitt.edu ). He has lectured extensively internationally, and held visiting posts at the University of São Paulo, the University of Tokyo and the University of Hong Kong.
Title: Forensic linguistics: directions within the ‘profession of words’
Abstract: As one aspect of the conference topic ‘new challenges for forensic linguists’, this presentation focuses on the shape and future development of the field of forensic linguistics and its cognate area, the analysis of ‘language in law’. Rather than presenting research of my own, the presentation highlights for discussion a cluster of general issues the field must continue to engage with. In particular, I will draw attention to the very different characteristics of ‘linguistic’ questions that arise in various fields of law and legal processes (e.g. as regards verbal behaviour submitted in evidence in criminal proceedings, in the interpretation of specialised legal discourse such as statutes and contracts, in addressing ‘access to justice’ problems associated with legal documents and procedures including trials, and concerning metalanguage that, as legal terms of art, governs analysis of communication in media and intellectual property law). The very different nature of such questions is accompanied by contrasting perspectives adopted in law on what language is (ordinary or technical?), what it means, and why (as determined by linguistic structure, as perceived by an ‘ordinary’ language user, as normatively understood by lawyers?), what role it is performing (fact in evidence, statement of what the law is, means of examination, advocacy or adjudication, etc.), and the balance of expertise in language considered to exist or be relevant as between lawyers and linguists. It is imperative to reflect on such differences, I will suggest, not only because they determine when and on what basis linguistic expertise is likely to be admissible in court or welcomed in other legal contexts, but because they shape the map of a complex encounter between linguists and lawyers in a field rightly recognised as fundamentally a ‘profession of words’. From deep questions about descriptive and normative approaches to language and how language contributes to the coordination of social behaviour, I will argue, spring many specific challenges we will talk about, including nomenclature chosen for work represented at the conference (‘forensic linguistics’, ‘language and law’, etc.), the relationship aspired to between linguists and lawyers (expertise independently applied, collaboration towards a linguistically-oriented jurisprudence, or some other, new kind of interdisciplinarity), and the curriculum, pedagogic materials and institutional setting likely to be most helpful to the next generation of forensic linguists.
Georgina Heydon (Centre for Global Research, RMIT University, Australia) is an internationally recognised expert in the field of forensic linguistics and investigative interviewing, and has published numerous academic papers and a book, ‘The Language of Police Interviewing’, on the topic of interviewing and information gathering. She teaches Forensic Interviewing, Contemporary Criminology and Criminological Theory in the Justice and Legal Studies discipline at RMIT University. As a forensic linguist, she has provided expert evidence on authorship attribution, threat identification, and commercial trademark cases. She has delivered interviewing training and advice to police and legal professionals in Australia, Sweden, Belgium, Indonesia, Mozambique and Canada, and to members of Australian judicial colleges and tribunals as well as lawyers and corporate clients. She has served on the IAFL executive committee as secretary from 2011-2015, and vice-president from 2015-2017. She will take up the office of President from July 2017.
Title: Ignorance is not bliss. How widespread misconceptions about language cause systemic failures in the justice system
Abstract: The history of forensic linguistics is littered with cases of inappropriate decisions made by legal professionals who lack an understanding of how language works. In the recently overturned conviction of Gene Gibson for manslaughter in Western Australia in 2010, a police interview proceeded without an interpreter with Gibson, an Aboriginal suspect who spoke English as a third or fourth language, on the basis that he was able to engage in casual conversation with police. This is not even the most recent such case in Australia, and is only one example of the many kinds of miscarriages of justice that can occur when decision makers do not have sufficient linguistic knowledge to ‘know what they don’t know’. This keynote speech will explore the impact on justice processes of widespread public ignorance about language. We will begin by examining a set of case studies that represent the range of decision types and justice contexts that are most affected by this knowledge gap. We will then explore the opportunities for addressing these gaps through linguistic research and training. Finally, we will consider a set of recommendations for how we, as forensic linguists, can raise awareness about linguistics and reduce ignorance and bias relating to language use.
Malcolm Coulthard is Emeritus Professor of Forensic Linguistics at the University of Aston and Visiting Professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Since the late 1980s, he has been increasingly involved with forensic applications of linguistics. He was Foundation President of the International Association of Forensic Linguists, Founding Director of the Aston Centre for Forensic Linguistics and founding editor of the discipline’s two main journals, The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law and Language and Law – Linguagem e Direito. He has written expert reports in over 230 cases and given evidence on author identification three times in the Courts of Appeal in London, as well as in lower courts in England, Germany, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland. Recent publications include A Handbook of Forensic Linguistics (2010) and An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence (2016) (with Alison Johnson and David Wright), and Linguagem e Direito: os Eixos Tematicos (2015) (with Virginia Colares and Rui Sousa-Silva).
Title: IAFL – The Next 25 Years
Abstract: The founding of IAFL was first proposed hesitantly at a small research symposium in Birmingham in 1992 and launched shortly afterwards with fewer than 40 founding members and no clear sense of purpose. The first international conference, organised by Hannes Kniffka, took place in Bonn the next year. I will begin this presentation reflecting on some of major achievements of the members of the Association, individually and collectively, in research, publishing, consultancy and lobbying. I will use this reflection as a starting point to raise questions and make suggestions about priorities for the next 25 years and about the balance between developing new techniques to handle existing problems and advancing into new areas. I will also ask whether as an Association we could and should do more to foster the development of our discipline in non-anglophone southern hemisphere countries. I will use the Brazilian context as an example of how the importation of existing knowledge, skills and techniques could benefit the administration of justice.
Martin Potthast is a postdoctoral researcher at the Digital Bauhaus Lab at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany. His research interests include information retrieval, machine learning, and web technology. In particular, he works on technology to manipulate writing style including author identification as well as author obfuscation. In this connection, Martin is one of the initiators and organizers of the PAN workshop and competition series on digital text forensics. Since 2009, PAN has hosted successful shared tasks on plagiarism detection, Wikipedia vandalism detection, author identification, and author profiling. Martin obtained a Diplom in computer science at the University of Paderborn and joined the working group Web Technology and Information Systems at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in 2006, where he graduated as Dr. rer. nat. in 2011.
Title: On the Vulnerability of Automatic Author Identification Approaches
Abstract: How easily can computer-based author identification be impaired by automatic author obfuscation? This talk sheds light on new approaches to author obfuscation, and their impact on the detection performance of the state of the art in author identification. We exemplify technology to paraphrase texts with the goal of obfuscating its author’s writing style, and report on a large-scale experiment where 44 identification approaches are evaluated with regard to their resilience against obfuscation approaches.
Pedro Verdelho is Attorney of the Prosecutor General’s Office since 1990. Since 1994 he has been in charge of investigating financial crimes, cases of corruption and computer crimes, at the District Deputy Prosecutors General’s Office in Lisbon. Between 2005 and 2011, he taught (and acted as coordinator of) criminal studies at the Centre for Judicial Studies. He has been the Coordinator of the Cybercrime Office of the Prosecutor General’s Office since 2011. He currently represents Portugal in the European Union and in the United Nations on matters of cybercrime. He has also represented Portugal in the Cybercrime Convention Committee of the Council of Europe since 2006.
Title: The Author and the Right to the Speech
Abstract: Forensic linguistics is becoming to assert itself as an auxiliary science of the judiciary, allowing, among other things, to contribute to the discovery of infringements of copyright. This presentation aims to address the legal framework of this type of criminal offenses, regarding which discovery forensic linguistics has an enormous potential. It will refer to the normative framework resulting from the Civil Code, but also to the specific regulations of copyright (Code of Copyright and Related Rights). It will also deal with the most likely types of legal criminal offenses when infringing copyright related to texts.
Peter French is Chairman of J P French Associates forensic speech and acoustics laboratory, Professor of Forensic Speech Science at the University of York, Visiting Professor of Forensic Speech Science at the University of Huddersfield, Chair of the Home Office Forensic Regulator’s Group for Forensic Speech and Audio, President of the International Association for Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics and editor of The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law (phonetics & acoustics). He has worked on more than 5,000 cases involving recorded speech for courts of all levels in countries across the world, and is currently involved in two major forensic research projects based at the University of York.
Title: The Forensic Speech Scientist in a Bubble … with the World Looking in
Abstract: The talk outlines recent developments in forensic speech science. The primary focus is on what is happening in the UK, but other jurisdictions internationally are either following UK developments or are already ahead. The main focus is on the UK Government requirement for all forensic science disciplines to comply with ISO 17025 as a standard for casework. This entails, inter alia, shielding the analyst from all case background information that could bias his/her findings, accreditation of laboratories, testing of staff, validation of methods in conditions that reflect the range encountered in casework, making and preservation of records of analysis for disclosure to opposing parties, plus having another qualified analyst check all key findings of the primary analyst and ‘blind’ check the overall conclusions arising from them.The presentation considers the benefits of these requirements for the quality and reliability of forensic speech science evidence and also the practical difficulties their adoption entails. As a discussion point, the talk raises the (?inevitable) application of ISO 17025 – or similar – standards to the regulation of forensic analysis of written texts.
Shonna Trinch (Anthropology) is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at John Jay College, City University of New York in New York City. After receiving her PhD in Spanish Linguistics in 1999 from the University of Pittsburgh, she published the book, Latina Women’s Narratives of Domestic Abuse: Discrepant Versions of Violence (John Benjamins 2003). In this study, she investigates how women’s stories of domestic abuse and rape change and are changed, as they are cast by legal professionals from one speech genre into another. She has also published several articles on law and language topics in leading journals such as the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, Language in Society, Text & Talk, Journal of Pragmatics, Dialectical Anthropolgoy and Law, Culture and Humanities. Currently she is working with colleague, Edward Snajdr, on two book projects about urban redevelopment with funding from the National Science Foundation. This work examines legal, sociocultural, sociolinguistic and discursive aspects of gentrification, development and other forms of urban change. Focusing on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, they examine how people compete, collaborate and conflict in their attempts to fix meaning on land. Trinch and Snajdr have recently published an article on language in public space in Journal of Sociolinguistics entitled, “What the signs say: Gentrification and the disappearance of capitalism without distinction in Brooklyn.”
Title: Law, Language, and the Creation Place: The Deployment of Eminent Domain in the Contested City of Brooklyn, NY
Abstract: In this talk, I examine how eminent domain, or the state’s power to seize private property for public use, has been used to build the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project in Brooklyn, NY. Using linguistic ethnography, my colleague Edward Snajdr and I examine how the state of New York operates in partnership with a private developer through neoliberalizing, discursive practices that allow it to dissociate itself from the assertion of its sovereign power. In this dissociative context, the state successfully constructs an environment in which the law of eminent domain can be invoked in the absence of government officials or street-level bureaucrats, those people who typically enact the rule of law. The process by which this land seizure takes place is largely linguistic and definitional. Rather than communicating that land will be seized, the state relies on the creation of multiple publics, on the ambiguity of public-private partnerships, on specific definitions of blight, condemnation,and utilization, and, ironically, on the efforts of activists who fight the project. Ethnographic interviews, archival data and the lawsuit reveal that anti-Atlantic Yards activists’ possess a legal consciousness about government land seizures that is at odds with current governmental ideologies regarding the takings clause. Within an interactional framework, we see how the opposition’s protests of the project are available to governmental authorities to claim that the public had a ‘say’ in the project. Thus, in addition to facilitating the seizure of private property, the relationship between the state and the developer imposes the logic of neoliberal for-profit development that espouses the creation of a public good at the same time it creates a culture wherein arguments against such private/public partnerships seem almost impossible.
Tim Grant is Professor in Forensic Linguistics and the Director of the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, and President of the International Association of Forensic Linguists. Tim has extensive experience of providing linguistic evidence in a variety of cases including sexual assault, stalking, murder, and terrorism. He is particularly interested in forensic authorship analysis focusing on short messages such as text messages and Twitter posts and his recent work has focussed on developing linguistic techniques to investigate anonymous dark-web crimes such as online child sex abuse.
Title: The usefulness of investigative linguistic analysis in the Courts and beyond
Abstract: In this talk I will focus on the different ways a forensic linguistic analysis will be used in intelligence and evidential contexts. I will argue that forensic linguists, acting both as researchers and practitioners, need to focus on a broad variety of use cases and understand better how their analysis can be used and can be useful in the criminal and civil justice systems and beyond. This will be illustrated by examining how prosecutors, defenders and tryers of fact will used a forensic authorship analysis report in the criminal context. In the UK context at least, only a small number of analyses are argued over in Court and most will be used by lawyers to persuade the other side to reduce charges or to enter a guilty plea. I argue that in this context as well as in the Court itself, the forensic linguistic evidence needs to be not only robust and admissible, but also it must include clear and convincing explanation of methods and outcomes which can enable all parties to engage in reasoned decision making. I further argue that such a view of the expert witness aligns them with their role in assisting the Court, and helpfully distances them from the role of a partisan in the proceedings.