Forensic Linguistics
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Joss Stone 'death diary' language analysis

Joss Stone 'death diary' language analysis | Forensic Linguistics | Scoop.it
One of the men accused of plotting to murder singer Joss Stone wrote a diary with notes including "death" and "injure", a court hears.

Via Tim Grant
Nicole's insight:

Another example of Linguistics in the courtroom!

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Tim Grant's curator insight, March 29, 2013 4:49 AM

One reason for the slowdown in LSL Scoops recently has been weight of work.

 

Not only have there been all the usual academic pressures but I’d been prepping for Court in what the media have been calling the “Joss Stone murder plot trial”.

 

The linguistic part of the trial has focussed on the use of language in the accused diaries and notes. The analysis for meaning was in fact mostly carried out by a police officer, DC Katherine Joyner, and she presented in Court. Nicci MacLeod and I had initially been asked to contribute to the analysis and I was warned for Court in case the language analysis was challenged. This meant quite a lot of preparation so that I could stand behind the analysis but in the event I wasn’t called.

 

And in the spirit of all good news paper reporting I conclude - the case continues...

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Judge plays forensic linguist in Butters v McMenamin (aka Ceglia v Zuckerberg)

Judge plays forensic linguist in Butters v McMenamin (aka Ceglia v Zuckerberg) | Forensic Linguistics | Scoop.it
A judge said Paul Ceglia’s claim that he owns a multibillion-dollar share of Facebook Inc. should be thrown out of court because the contract on which he bases his lawsuit is fraudulent.

Via Tim Grant
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Tim Grant's curator insight, March 29, 2013 4:29 AM

Ben Zimmer has been keeping me posted on the Ceglia-Zuckerberg case as, as you may remember, for fans of FL the interest in this case centres not on whether Paul Ceglia can be awarded a portion of the Facebook billions.  The real interest in the case focuses on the discussion/argument/fight between Ron Butter’s, previous chair of the IAFL, and Jerry McMenamin, who in terms of experience has to be recognised as one of the longest practicing forensic linguists.  

 

As well as a piece by Ben in the NY Times, Mark Liberman on LanguageLog wrote up the case (search for: "High-stakes forensic linguistics" - and also read the comments where the spat continues) and there are other media reports too.

 

Ben points us to Judge Leslie Foschio’s judgement

 

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/2383813/ceglia-v-zuckerberg-3-26-13.pdf

 

and notes that:

 

- McMenamin's report is discussed on pp. 115-9. On p. 117 you'll see that Ceglia's lawyers put my NYT piece into evidence and pointed to a quote from Ron Butters about "slender evidence." Foschio didn't give that much weight -- in fact, based on McMenamin, he concludes that "the author of the Known writings possessed a better grasp of proper English usage and grammar than the author of the Questioned writings."

 

Finally Ben asks: Isn't it a little odd for a judge to be engaging in his own stylistic analysis?

 

So it seems that whilst Judge Foschio did not ignore the expert linguists’ comments, he does indulge in his own linguistic analysis citing case law (S.K.I. Beer Corp. v. Baltika Brewery, 443 F.Supp.2d 313, 318 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) to support his right to do so.

 

As far as I can tell (and I’m no lawyer) this case asserts the right of the Court to analyse language in terms of its ordinary meaning in arbitrating between two possible interpretations of legislature.  This is a very different context from stylistic authorship analysis.  In the authorship analysis essentially the judge, citing The Chicago Manual of Style argues that as Ceglia uses poor grammar and Zuckerberg’s grammar is good this points to “a highly probable conclusion that the

Questioned writings were not authored by Zuckerberg”.  In Butters vs. McMenamin the judge finds with McMenamin (and incidentally also for Zuckerberg!)

 

From an academic perspective the judge would not have passed any authorship analysis class I might run either in terms of the method used or the way he drew his conclusion.