What types of linguistic evidence have been been submitted in different court cases? What types of linguistic analysis have been used to determine authorship? What are the threats to reliability?

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Linguistic evidence is used as a type of forensic science in legal proceedings. Linguistic analysis is routinely performed on a broad array of evidence such as suicide notes, ransom notes, 911 calls, and death row statements. It can reveal a plethora of information about a document or even a person,...

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Linguistic evidence is used as a type of forensic science in legal proceedings. Linguistic analysis is routinely performed on a broad array of evidence such as suicide notes, ransom notes, 911 calls, and death row statements. It can reveal a plethora of information about a document or even a person, when done and presented correctly.

One of the common applications of forensic linguistics is determining authorship. It relies on the "idiolect", which is a person's specific pattern of language use. One's idiolect includes not only their regional and cultural dialect, but their own personal linguistic signature. One of the approaches to determining authorship that can be found in forensic linguistics is statistical analysis, which examines the types and lengths of words used as well as the number of unique (that is, used only once) words in a text.

As with all forensic sciences, linguistic analysis can be flawed and give an incorrect picture of events to a jury, especially when the shortcomings and inaccuracies of a particular technique are not clearly explained. In reference to authorship, it is important to remember that individuals' idiolects can shift drastically over their lifetime, due to various changes such as ones in cultural surroundings (such as moving to a different place or changing socioeconomic class). Education and formal schooling are known to especially impact a person's use of language.

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