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Forensic Linguistics Case Study – QE

Inspired A Level English Language students from QE have discovered the importance of forensic linguistics in solving crimes following a visit to the College by Dr. Georgina Brown from Lancaster University. The University lecturer delivered four interactive sessions focusing on the fascinating topic of forensic linguistics – the analysis of the language in texts in criminal and civil law cases. During the classes, students were tasked with determining the authorship of text messages and voices in audio recordings with Georgina using the real-life case of Jenny Nicholl as an example. Following Jenny’s disappearance in 2005, police were able to convict her ex-boyfriend of her murder after an investigation into a number of text messages allegedly sent by Jenny found that he had been composing them. Assuming the role of forensic linguists, the enthusiastic English Language students analysed key features of the messages and noticed patterns in numbers and word contractions, allowing them to obtain an insight into this exciting field of work.

Links to Gatsby Benchmarks

1. Learning from careers and labour market information

Students gained relevant LMI around a career that they might not have been aware of. It also showed them progression opportunities from their current A levels and how the skills/qualities they are gaining can be used in the world of work.

2. Linking curriculum learning to careers

Students were able to explore a career closely linked to their A level in English Language and identify skills and qualities that they are gaining from the subject that they can transfer to a range of different careers.

3. Encounters with employers and employees

Students worked with the University lecturer to identify how linguistics would be used in a real life example, therefore gaining experience of the role as an employee.

4. Encounters with further and higher education

The activity was delivered by Lancaster University; therefore, students gained knowledge and understanding of studying at degree level.

Impact of the event:

Total students involved – 62

English Language students made the following comments:

‘Really enjoyable and interesting’

‘The sessions made me realise how many different career paths exist within linguistics’

Dr. Georgina remarked that it had been a pleasure to travel to the North East and engage with QE students through her taster experience. She comments: ‘The staff and students were very welcoming at the College. More than that, the students identified linguistic features in the data that I hadn’t found myself’.

Paul Heselton, Course Leader for A Level English Language at QE, concludes: ‘It was great to see how the analysis of real-life data is used to resolve legal cases. Forensic linguistics is an occupational area that is completely new to many of our students. Following the workshops, perhaps some of them will progress to careers where their linguistic skills will help the police in solving crimes.’