Universiteit Leiden

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Applied Linguistics

Forensic linguistics and speech evidence

Investigating specific language and speech behaviour of people.

How we speak and use a language shows variation between language users. Because of that, speech and language behaviour may testify to, for example, the origin, social class, emotional state, occupation and idiosyncrasies of speakers and writers. Researchers in the field of forensic linguistics and speech evidence analyse how language users may differ from one another, such as in their voice, accent and word choice. By means of this linguistic analysis, the language and speech produced in various communicative situations is better understood, which is beneficial both for criminal cases and in cases of asylum seekers.

Speech is variable. Two recordings of the same speaker can therefore differ, to an extent, depending on various factors, such as their emotional state or the situation they find themselves in. So how to find the most reliable speaker information that can be used as evidence? Which part of a speech signal, stressed or non-stressed vowels for example, can best be analysed to determine the speaker’s characteristics?

At LUCL, researchers investigate which speech and language features provide useful and robust information that differentiates language users. In this way they provide important linguistic insights that can contribute to fairer trials.

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