Forensic linguistics in Denmark and the US – University of Copenhagen

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Forensic linguistics in Denmark and the US

Research network in 2016 funded by an International Network Programme grant from the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Research field and focus

Forensic Linguistics applies linguistic theory and methodology to issues of language and the law and investigates forensic-linguistic data to uncover under-the-surface patterns and meanings. For instance, in an attempt to narrow down the suspect pool of a criminal investigation, the forensic linguist makes use of sociolinguistic and corpus linguistic methods when identifying linguistic features attributable to specific societal groups (young/old, female/male, local/immigrant).

This network focusses on two subfields:

i. Language as Evidence (e.g. analyses of linguistic data that form part of police/civil investigations)

ii. Language and the Legal Process (e.g. analyses of courtroom interaction).

The aim of the network is to gain empirical, theoretical and practical advances within the field of Forensic Linguistics, to promote comparative research on the differences between the investigatory and judicial systems and courtroom interaction of the two nations, and further an optimal use of Forensic Linguistic analyses in the local court setting. Additionally, the network will seek to spearhead Forensic Linguistics in Denmark, where it is still a novelty, by building on the extensive empirical expertise of the US partners.

Activities of the network  

Project launch workshop, University of Copenhagen, January 7, 2016
Participants: network partners and colleagues from the Danish National Police, as well as colleagues from other Danish universities who work within overlapping disciplines such as the subfields Forensic Phonetics and Legal Language.  The  workshop narrowed down current problems in need of further study within the field and established necessary contacts for future collaborative projects.

5­‐day data exploration stay, Hofstra University, New York, March 2016
The central Danish network members explored possible data types and sources that may be compared with Danish data. The stay included visits to US courts, with supreme court judges and at the NYPD 9th Precinct Detective Squad. Contacts to researchers working on threat assessment and cybercrime were established.

5­‐day data exploration stay, University of Copenhagen, August 2016
American network participants (Robert Leonard, Lawrence Solan and  Tammy Gales) are invited to the University of Copenhagen to discuss current issues and challenges in Forensic Linguistics with faculty and students. They will be introduced to the methods used to explore the LANCHART corpus on spoken Danish. Network members will reach out to external partners with the Danish National Police as well as prosecutors and defense lawyers to exchange knowledge of research needs and possibilities. 

2day workshop on joint projects, Hofstra University, November 2016
Central senior and junior group members will reevaluate the net list of research projects, add possible new project ideas and prioritize between them. American, Danish and international funding agencies will be considered and one-two project proposals will be outlined.    

Conference, Copenhagen University, December 9-10, 2016
Forensic Linguistics will be presented to a wider, Danish audience with an expected attendance of 30-40 participants. Invited speakers are Lawrence Solan (Brooklyn Law School), Robert A. Leonard (Hofstra University) and Thomas Schou Roer (Danish National Police).