Saturday, September 13, 2008

CSI Nokia

Forensic linguistics is a growing field and one that directly applies skills of textual analysis to a range of everyday communications - letters, texts, internet discussions, recordings of speech - in a bid to accurately trace the user's identity.

Science Daily reports on one particular case in which a man was convicted for the murder of his ex-partner largely through the evidence of messages sent on her mobile phone. Dr Tim Grant of Aston University explains:

‘Jenny Nicholl disappeared on 30th June 2005. A linguistic analysis showed that text messages sent from her phone were unlikely to have been written by her but, rather, were more likely to have been written by her ex-lover, David Hodgson. A number of stylistic points identified within texts known to have been written by Jenny Nicholl were not present in the suspect messages. Instead, these were stylistically close to the undisputed messages of David Hodgson.

Hodgson was convicted partly because, in text messages he sent on her phone after she disappeared, he spelled "myself" as "meself". In her own text messages, Nicholl had spelled the word "myself".

‘The kind of features we were interested in were the shortening of “im” in the texts from Nicholl contrasting with “I am” in the suspect messages and the lack of space after the digit substitution in items such as “go2shop” contrasting with “ave 2 go”’.


So, while your skills of textual analysis and understanding of new modes of technology will obviously help you do well in your A Levels, they might also help you become a crime-fighting super sleuth.

Useful for:
ENGA1 - Language and Mode
ENGA3 - Language Explorations
ENA5 (old spec) - Language Change

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