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Forensic Linguistic Examination of Evidence

Webcast and Transcript

September 16, 2008
Stetson University College of Law, The Great Hall, 1401 61st Street South, Gulfport, FL

Dr. Frances Rock presented a fascinating lecture on "Forensic Linguistic Examination of Evidence". She is a visiting professor from Great Britain whose work has helped develop new procedures that are currently in practice in England and Wales to address the rights of people in police custody.

Dr. Rock lectures in the Centre for Language and Communication which is part of the Cardiff University School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Prior to working at the Centre, she worked at Roehampton University where she held a lectureship in Language and Linguistics for four years. She also has taught at the University of Birmingham and for the International Summer School in Forensic Linguistics. She has worked for a manufacturing company Northern Foods as a Research Associate in Public Health and Epidemiology and has held publishing posts at Trinity Publications and Robinswood Books.

She is a Cardiff undergraduate and holds an MA in Modern English Language from Lancaster University. Her PhD is in English from The University of Birmingham.

Dr. Rock's recent research involved investigation of language in legal settings. She has particularly focused on the police and in that context, she has examined texts, processes and practices which mediate information between legal specialists and lay people, in both directions. This research contributed to the development of a new written text to explain rights to people in police custody and new procedures to accompany that text. This text and accompanying procedures are now in use in police stations throughout England and Wales; this research has led her to address a wider range of research questions using predominantly sociolinguistic and discursive techniques. These research questions cluster around themes of ‘difficult’ linguistics, recontextualisation, research methods.

Dr. Rock is currently examining ways in which lay people obtain information about the law other than through contact with legal personnel, analysing witness statement-taking, investigating the communication of warnings and developing a project on language in workplaces. She is also preparing books on language in legal settings and in police work.

Her work uses a range of techniques, theoretical frameworks and concepts drawn from discourse analysis, new literacy studies, sociolinguistics, ethnography and interactional sociolinguistics. Her research interests are in the areas of: police language, forensic linguistics, media representations of the law, workplace language, information design, document design, ‘difficult’ language, Expert-lay communication, discourse, literacies, ethnography, interactional sociolinguistics, recontextualisation, and research methods.

Selected Publications:
  1. (2007) Communicating rights: The language of arrest and detention Palgrave: Basingstoke
  2. (2006) ‘Looking the other way: Linguistic ethnography and forensic linguistics’ UK Linguistic Ethnography Forum papers. Available at:
  3. (2005) ‘“Sometimes you pinch stuff”: Communities of practice in an institutional setting’ In: Barton, D. and Tusting, K. (eds) Beyond communities of practice Cambridge University Press: Cambridge ISBN 0521544920 77-104
  4. (2002) ‘Only just: The role of information design in legal communication’ Information design journal 11 (1) ISSN: 0142-5471 91-94
  5. (2001) ‘The genesis of a witness statement’ Forensic linguistics: the international journal of speech, language and the law 8, 2 ISSN 1350-1771 44-72
  6. (2001) ‘Policy and practice in the anonymisation of linguistic data’ International journal of corpus linguistics 6, 1 ISSN 1384-6655 1-26
  1. Communicating Rights: The language of arrest and detention:
  2. Here is a link to information about her most recent book. The book explores ways in which rights are communicated in police custody. You can buy a copy for less from:
  3. The Notice of Rights and Entitlements (available in multiple languages): This text was devised by Sergeant John Price. She got involved in examining the text, before it was introduced, by interviewing people who had received a copy while they were in police custody. This led to some revisions to the text and to procedures in detention.
  4. Beyond Communities of Practice: Information on a recent publication edited by David Barton and Karin Tusting which includes a chapter which she wrote.
  5. The anonymisation of linguistic data: This link provides the abstract for a paper she wrote on anonymisation. The article asks what details of informants' identities should be concealed by those who work with linguistic data. The article would be useful to those who build large corpora and to those who conduct micro-analyses of spoken or written texts.
  6. The Website for the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law: This site provides information on the journal and features links to abstracts of articles from the journal.
  7. The forensic linguistics email list: This email list explores issues related to language and the law. You can search the list archives from this page and join the list here, too.
  8. Homepage of the International Association of Forensic Linguists: Information about IAFL, a professional organisation which acts as a focal point for those who work on any aspect of language and law. The site includes details of upcoming events, useful bibliographies and details of practitioners.
  9. Homepage of the British Association of Applied Linguistics: Information about BAAL, a professional organisation which “provides a forum for people interested in language and the applications of linguistics”. This site includes information on the association's annual conference and seminar series, it's annual book prize, special interest groups as well as a useful notice board.
  10. Writing for the reader: An extremely useful website designed by Dr. Gavin Budge of the University of Central England. The site is a great resource for those who are writing academic essays for the first time but also for the more experienced academic writer.
For more information, see Dr. Rock's website