Author Archives: Frances Rock

Guest lecture

We’re delighted to welcome all to the talk detailed below.  After the talk, from 2.30 – 4.30pm the speakers will each give a workshop which is also open to all.  The workshops are in room 3.56:

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 12.10pm – 1pm

 Room 0.31, John Percival Building


 Uncovering staged suicide: Case studies in authorship attribution

 Dr Natalie Schilling (Georgetown University)

and Jim Fitzgerald (The Academy Group, Inc.; FBI [ret.])



Although the academic analysis of suicide-related communications often centers on attempting to identify indicators of victim intent (e.g. actual suicide vs. ‘cry for help’), it is more important to first determine whether such communications were indeed authored by the victim or whether the apparent suicide and related communications were staged in an attempt to cover up a murder or attempted murder. Hence, alleged written suicide communications should never be assessed in isolation but rather in comparison with known writings of the victim and, if the investigation dictates, with the known writings of others who may be suspects in the authorship of the communication and/or the actual death.


In 2007, three separate homicides/homicide attempts in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia were initially handled as suicides, as each crime scene included an alleged suicide communication. However, in each case factors emerged that suggested homicide (and, in one case, attempted homicide). In each case, forensic linguistic comparison of the alleged suicide communication with documents known to be authored by the victim and by suspected perpetrators yielded invaluable evidence indicative of inconsistency of the ‘suicide’ notes with the victims’ known writings and/or consistency with those of the suspects. Each case resulted in an arrest for the charge of homicide and the eventual successful conviction of each.


In this presentation, we outline the forensic linguistic analyses conducted in connection with these cases, demonstrating the efficacy of qualitative and quantitative forensic stylistic methods of authorial attribution focusing on such features as punctuation, orthography and lexical usages. We highlight linkages between forensic stylistics and sociolinguistic studies of stylistic variation and authorial imitation, as well as recent computational linguistic methods in authorial attribution of computer mediated communications, thereby demonstrating the solid linguistic basis as well as practical utility of the authorial attribution methods used in these three cases.


FuzzyLaw on tour!

FuzzyLaw, a website about legal terminology, is visiting the Eisteddfod this week.

Specially commissioned interactive games will enable visitors to the festivities to play with FuzzyLaw and try to find patterns in the definitions it provides.

There will also be an opportunity to take part in the online version of the site for those who want to leave a more permanent contribution.

If you’re in Carmarthenshire, why not go along!

Best wishes


New publication from two CaLL members

We are delighted to announce the publication of “Legal-Lay Communication: Textual Travels in the Law”.  This new book, published by Oxford University Press, provides a particular perspective on communication between legal professionals and those they encounter in their work by paying special attention to the transformation and ‘travel’ of texts as part of that communication.


You can find out more about the book here:

Research Talk from Tanya Tkacukova, Aston University

There is an upcoming talk in the CLCR Research Seminar Series which is likely to be of interest to CaLL members.  Here are the details.  It will be great to see you there:

Wednesday, 23 October 2012 (Week 4) 1pm – 2pm

Room 3.58, John Percival Building

Communication needs of litigants in person

Dr Tanya Tkacukova

Aston University



The talk presents communicative challenges litigants in person experience when representing themselves in court. In light of recent legislative changes and cuts in legal aid in England and Wales, the number of litigants in person has risen dramatically. Nevertheless, there has not been much research conducted on litigation in person from the legal perspective, let alone the linguistic point of view. The talk presents this under-researched topic and aims to provide an overview of communicative and linguistic problems litigants in person experience during opening and closing speeches, witness examination, interaction with judges and opposing counsels. The talk also identifies further research options that can potentially help lawyers and the judiciary in the debate on changes of legal proceedings for litigants in person. The data draws on several widely publicised cases and small claims cases from England and Wales and the USA.

CaLL Research Group – First meeting of 2013-14

Our first Reserach Group meeting will take place on Thursday 17th October in room 3.66 of the John Percival Building from 4.10pm.  The Group will consider a paper published in June this year by Dennis Kurzon entitled “Foreign and archaic phrases in legal texts”.  The paper is from The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law Vol 20 no. 1.


The Group is open to anyone who’d like to come along to discuss language and law although obviously reading the paper in advance is fairly essential to this session.


Best wishes




CaLL Research Group

The CaLL Research Group is being convened this year by Jane Cooke – thank you Jane!

Those people who have come along to the group in the past will know that it has predominantly operated as a reading group and with the name “CaLL Reading Group”.  This year, we are not only inviting contributions of reading suggestions (recent papers being an obvious, exciting focus). Instead we’re throwing the net wide for members to discuss, in addition to readings on Language and Law, data, in particular.  Participants are invited to identify data, online, for example and circulate it for discussion.  The usual ethical standards must be observed – if in doubt, check first with Chris Heffer ( or Frances Rock (

Best wishes


Innocence Project Collaboration launched

An exciting collaboration began yesterday, 13th March 2013, between CaLL and Cardiff Innocence Project.
Our MA students have begun to examine interview recordings, transcripts and statements in a range of cases which the Innocence Project is currently looking into.
Information on Cardiff Innocence Project is available at:
For more information, contact Dr Frances Rock