S2 E1: Forensic Linguistics – Dr. Nicci MacLeod

Welcome back to Season 2!
Today, we’re joined by Dr. Nicci MacLeod. She is a Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at Northumbria University. She got her PhD from Aston University in Birmingham where she conducted discourse analysis on police interviews with women reporting rape. 

Until 2018 she was employed as a Research Associate at the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics, working on various projects focusing on authorship analysis, native language identification, and assuming identities online in the context of undercover investigations against child sex offenders. She is co-author of the book Language and Online Identities: The Undercover Policing of Internet Sexual Crime..

Nicci also works as self-employed forensic linguist. For this, she undertakes casework in the areas of authorship analysis, sociolinguistic profiling and forensic discourse analysis. She is part of the National Crime Agency Expert Advisor Database. On top of that, she has worked with the Serious Organised Crime Squad, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, UK police forces and defence solicitors, and she has appeared as expert witness in the Crown Court of England and Wales, and both the Sherriff Court and the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland.

Her current research interests lie in discursive patterns of representation and negotiation, particularly in legal and investigative contexts, the language of policing, and the language of violence.

Episode Transcript

[Eva-Maria] Welcome back to Season two of much language such talk. Now that we’re back, you can expect new episodes every other Thursday again, isn’t that exciting? We are very happy that you have decided to tune in for today’s episode, and we already have fantastic topics and guests lined up for the next few weeks. So make sure to follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter on our website mlstpodcast.com to never miss an episode again. So today, you’re hearing from me Eva-Maria, and I’m joined by my co-host, Maria. Hi, Maria.

[Maria] Hey, how are you?

Click to continue reading…

[Eva-Maria] Good. How are you?

[Maria]Good. Nice to be back.

[Eva-Maria] Nice to be back indeed. So, for our first episode back after our summer break, we have chosen a super interesting topic that not too many people are familiar with. We are going to talk about forensic linguistics. Now before I introduce our wonderful guest, this episode contains mentions of rape, sexual offences and paedophilia. We acknowledge that these are highly sensitive topics., so we would advise you to not continue with this episode if these topics are too confronting for you. Today’s guest is Dr. Nicci McLeod. She’s a senior lecturer in English language and linguistics at Northumbria University. She got her PhD from Aston University in Birmingham, where she conducted discourse analysis on police interviews with women reporting rape. Until 2018, she was employed as a research associate at the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics, working on various projects focusing on authorship analysis, native language identification, and assuming identities online in the context of undercover investigations against child sex offenders. She is co-author of the book “Language and Online Identities: The Undercover Policing of Internet Sexual Crime, which we will be talking about on this episode as well. Nikki also works as a self-employed forensic linguist outside of academia, applying her academic background to criminal cases. For this, she undertakes casework in the areas of authorship analysis, socio linguistic profiling and forensic discourse analysis. She’s also part of the National Crime Agency Expert Advisor Database. On top of that, she has worked with a serious Organised Crime Squad, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the UK police forces and defence solicitors, and she has appeared as expert witness in the Crown Court of England and Wales, and both the Sheriff Court and the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland. Her current research interests lie in discursive patterns of representation and negotiation, particularly in legal and investigative contexts, the language of policing and the language of violence. So from this intro, you can tell that this episode will show you a completely different side of linguistics you might have not heard about before. And some of you might have not even considered the importance of this field. But Maria and I are very excited to have Nikki on the podcast so we can learn about what forensic linguistics is, and what this work entails.

[Maria] Hello, great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

[Eva-Maria] Thanks so much for coming.

[Nicci] You’re welcome.

[Maria] To begin with, we wanted to ask like, how did you develop your interest in linguistics before forensic linguistics.

[Nicci] I think I’ve always from quite a young age had a bit of a fascination with language. I think, you know, the fact that it’s, you know, a uniquely human traits, the fact that our kind of understandings of how it works, it’s just fascinating, really, you know, down to knowing when it’s our turn to talk, but in sort of a nanosecond, and how do we understand each other when, you know, when for the most part that is a general rule, we don’t actually say what we mean. So how were we able to kind of communicate with each other so effectively, on all these kinds of questions. And sort of, variation really fascinated me from quite a young age as well, whether that’s variation based on geographical factors on social factors. I’ve always found that really intriguing. And English was a particular strong point of mine, particularly English language. So I naturally went on to do that at A-level. And then from there went on to study a degree level. And then it was as an undergraduate that my interest in specifically in forensic linguistics was kind of, peaked if you like, and that’s kind of led me down on the journey that I find myself on now.

[Eva-Maria] That is super interesting. So for us to understand what we’re talking about. So what exactly is forensic linguistics? Because I remember that in my undergrad, when we talked about, you know, what you can do with a degree in linguistics, because there’s so many options, right? languages are everywhere. We had a forensic linguist come to talk to us, and she talked about forensic phonetics. So she talked about how she worked with a police to like work on audio tapes and everything. So what is forensic linguistics? And what are the different sub disciplines in forensic linguistics?

[Nicci] Well, actually the question of what counts as forensic linguistics is actually quite a controversial one. If you look at the Etymology of the word ‘forensic’ is from the Latin ‘forensis’ meaning ‘of the forum’. So it would imply that what forensic linguistics is, is when language is of the forum, of the court, in public, basically. So wherever a question of language comes up, and is applicable in a case that’s being heard in a courtroom, that is your sort of prototypical forensic linguistics. And a lot of people would say that it’s some restricted to that. And but I’m certainly much more of the opinion that it’s, it’s quite a bit broader than that, actually. And that it’s where language or the study of language intersects with questions of law, or of crime, of evidence, or whatever it might be. So it’s not just when a question of language finds itself as a piece of evidence in say, a criminal case, it could also be looking at, say, the language of the law, like of written legal texts, so of kind of statutes and contracts and wills, and so on and so forth. And also looking at the language of, of legal processes. So what happens in a courtroom, when a barrister is cross examining a witness, for example? How does it differ if they’re cross examining, sort of like lay witness ordinary witness, as compared to when they do the same with an expert witness? And what can we say about the way that the cross examination differs from direct examination, for example, and those kinds of questions, and also in not just in the court, but in the police interview room. So you might be wanting to look at questions of how, when a witness is interviewed their story of a particular event that they’ve, they’ve witnessed? What are the processes involved in gaining that story from a witness? And what are the processes in terms of how does a police interviewer kind of shape the witness’s story in a way that’s actually going to be useful for the investigation or for the court case, if it, if it comes to that. But also, it does cover sort of language as evidence, there might be questions of a linguistic nature that come up in cases it could be about, you know, did this particular suspect write this question, you know, this anonymous document. You’ve got cases where a young girl has gone missing. And to all intents and purposes, it looks like she’s run away, because family members or friends have continued to receive text messages from the missing person’s phone. But then it’s kind of transpired that actually there’s something not quite right. And it’s been something about those messages, it’s kind of made the family members or friends suspicious that actually the person offering those text messages is not the person whose phone it is. And those kinds of questions where forensic linguists have gotten involved, and been able to look at the victim’s historical style of texting, compare it to a suspects historical style of texting and kind of look at these questioned texts, you know, the ones that, that have been flagged as suspicious in some way, and kind of, you know, draw the conclusion that actually, they’re far more consistent with the style of this suspect than they are with the missing woman. And that’s that was the case in a couple of high profile cases where linguistic evidence has featured in a criminal trial. But you’ve also got to think about all these kinds of kind of other on the periphery, kind of accounts that I’m using scare quotes that as forensic linguistics, thinking about kind of the language of online communities, you know, incel communities, various other sort of extremist forums, and so on, and looking at the language that used there. And it’s not necessarily going to lead to anything illegal, anything that is remotely going to get anywhere near a court of law. But there’s a lot of us within the community that would argue that also is a form of forensic linguistics, because we’re still looking at some intersection between language study and crime or justice or, you know, whatever it might be so. So yeah, there’s there’s two sides of us that would advocate for forensic being used in quite a broad church. Your other question was about sort of subdisciplines. So you mentioned forensic phonetics looking at what can we tell about the voice on a recording in terms of their geographical background? Are we able to compare that to potentially a suspect that is in custody and comment on the possibility that what we’ve got is the same speaker that we might also want to consider the, I mentioned authorship analysis. So you know, there’s obviously a lot of research underpinning that, like how, how unique are we in our use of language when we when we write and sort of what have we kind of put that knowledge to use in answering those kinds of questions. And then also looking at experiences of vulnerable groups, such as children, such as victims of sexual crime, such as non-native speakers of English, such as people who are suffering from particular disabilities, and that kind of thing. It’s huge. I mean, I think a lot of people may think, well, it seems like quite a kind of niche thing, but it’s actually pretty, pretty broad.

[Eva-Maria] Wow, that’s super interesting, because I think that a lot of people, especially when they’re like, true crime fans like I am, you consider all of these things that they go into, like an investigation into, like when you’re looking into crime, but I don’t think a lot of people consider that you actually need experts, right? Because if you just ask a random police officer, they might not be able to even recognise the differences. Right?

[Maria] Exactly. I mean, this is, this is a sort of a quite a hot debate as well, actually, some police officers, I mean, a good example would be where we’ve got examples of a kind of non-standard variety of English being used, and the police might or the or the prosecution, I should say, need somebody to interpret the meaning of a particular segment of what that’s of a recording or a text message or whatever it might be, because it’s not in standard English, and they need somebody to interpret for the jury what’s actually being said at that point. And it may well be that police officers, that some of the police officers involved in the investigation know what it says. But the question comes up, whether is that good enough evidence for a police officer, the basis of their expertise being that they have kind of professional sort of familiarity with these particular groups? So they just know what that particular you know, let’s say slang, I don’t particularly like the word slang. But you know, that’s…

[Eva-Maria] for lack of a better term, yeah.

[Nicci] Yes, exactly. Yeah, they might be able to provide some kind of interpretation of it. But yeah, is that good enough? And in cases where this sort of thing, well, maybe actually, what’s going to lends a lot more weight to this evidence is if we have experts come and testify as to the meaning and then of course, then the expertise is based on rigorous research rather than just sort of my lived experience or my knowledge or whatever. So it’s, it’s something that maybe comes up quite a bit in, as part of investigation, but probably not as often as it should.

[Maria] And something also, not everyone has the knowledge on or is aware of. And to end up working in forensic linguistics. What is your background? What do you need as studies or as professional, as a career experience? What is necessary to work as a forensic forensic linguist?

[Nicci] Well I would definitely say, first off that the priority should be that the emphasis should be on the linguistics rather than on the forensic, like you need to be a good linguist before you can even hope to start kind of dabbling in forensic work. Forensic linguistics really is just an application of the knowledge that you get from formal study of linguistics, just as there are many other applications, language teaching, or whatever it might be, it’s just a context where you might put your skills to use and so I quite frequently will have students email me and say, you know, Could I come and do work experience with you, or do work shadowing or something, and I kind of have to, you know, say, well, if you can shadowed me at work, I mean, if you want to take this pile of marking, that’s about as tall as I am, and you want to kind of sit in the corner and do that be my guest. But I’m telling you, this is not the exciting kind of CSI sort of job that perhaps everybody maybe sort of thinks of when they hear that term, because they hear ‘forensic’ and because they associate it with all these various other disciplines that they’ve that, they’ve sort of seen on television, that it sounds kind of really exciting. But I’m afraid it’s actually quite dull, for a lot of the time. So yeah, I mean, focusing on an academic career, so going from undergraduates to get a Masters, and then get a PhD to work on research projects as an RA until such time as you are lucky enough to get yourself a full time job in, in academia, and the forensic linguistics will very much need to kind of play second fiddle to your academic career, essentially. So that’s what I would say. And I would also say that so what I just said about kind of, to kind of try and put off people requesting work experience, I did manage to find some, when I was a master’s student, there was a full time forensic linguist working not far from where I live. So I did manage to get some experience with her which was, which is really invaluable, really. But like I say, you need to be prepared, that this is not a full time job. Maybe at some point in the future, there will be the demand, there will will be a well known enough discipline that it can sustain people on a full time basis. But then you’d need to make sure that even if that was the case, that they sort of kept abreast of all the latest developments in the research and, and so on, because that’s really the important sort of element of it. It underpins all the work that we do. So my suggestion would be just to focus on pursuing that goal of a career in academia. And you will, if you’re lucky, the forensic stuff will kind of fall into place at the same time.

[Maria] So in your case, where do you work specifically, and how do you get brought into an investigation, like in your own personal experience?

[Nicci] Okay, well, I was lucky enough to work at Aston and what was then the Centre of Forensic Linguistics is now the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics. And I was fortunate enough to work there and to be, to work alongside and to be mentored by some of the sort of top forensic linguists in the country, which was a really invaluable position to be in because this meant that I could, I started off just sort of assisting on cases when, you know, when sort of my kind of superiors there were approached with a case, they’re not sometimes be brought in to kind of see how it’s done and to provide my input where I could, and then that then led to me being listed on the National Crime Advisors database, which is essentially a resource for police force well, for investigators to kind of tap into if they require a particular type of expertise, then they can find me through that. But that obviously relies on them knowing what they’re looking for. And I don’t think necessarily, forensic linguists would be just to chopping off their tongue when they think I’ve got this particular question. Unfortunately, at the moment, there’s no equivalent for defence teams. And so for kind of getting this sort of defence work that’s very much more reliant on kind of word of mouth, and making sure that you just get your name out there as much as possible. Obviously, being affiliated with the centre like Aston was very good, because often people would approach the centre and then it would come to me and maintaining a web presence, which is something that I tried to do, and just spreading the word as much as you possibly can. That’s the the way forward, I think.

[Maria] So would you say that most police officers or most crime investigations, small crime investigations, they’re not aware of the, who they can rely on?

[Nicci] No, I don’t think so. This is another another problem, actually, is that how do they know what good expertise is? But then also the jury like, well, how does the jury know what what’s good expert evidence? This is a really important question. Because how are they to know that my methods of looking at a dictionary conducting something approaching a kind of online ethnography, conducting a little bit of Corpus linguistics. How do they know that that’s any better than someone who says, ‘Well, I know that that’s what it means.’ Why would they know? It’s just, you know, it’s so they need to be guided.

[Eva-Maria] That’s why we do this podcast, you know, more people will know. To get the word out.

[Nicci] Good! Excellent. Hopefully, it will get he’ll get out there. And yeah, it’s not legislated for there’s nothing in statute that says expert evidence must be, you know, they must have a PhD. You know, it’s not for me to kind of come along and gatekeepe who counts as an expert. But when it comes to certain fields, I think that because there’s so much folk sort of understanding of wha, of language and how it works, and this kind of belief that if you’re a native speaker of a language, then that’s expertise enough. But we know that that’s not the case. Otherwise, none of us would have studied linguistics and English language. I mean, most of us have been on aeroplanes, but we’re not experts with a jet engine. And we certainly couldn’t explain how it works to a jury of 12 people who are going to decide if someone’s going to prison for the rest of their life or not, you know,

[Eva-Maria] That’s a good example. Yeah.

[Nicci] No, exactly. They still think they can explain how the jet engine works.

[Eva-Maria] Yeah, and especially with language, because language, you know, everybody uses language. And everybody thinks that that makes them an expert. But that really, really doesn’t. But you already kind of touched upon different like regional aspects of language and everything. So as a forensic linguist, is it useful or relevant to speak more than either one language or multiple dialects?

[Nicci]I would say that it’s may well be useful, I think, perhaps we can treat these as two sort of slightly different things. So sometimes, question come to me about, so our client is a Polish speaker, for example, and claims that on this recording, he is saying such and such, which means such and such, but it’s being claimed, what he’s saying is this other thing, which means this other thing, and in that instance, I would say this is not something that I can help with. But I do know a native Polish forensic linguist who is actually much better placed to be able to help you with this question, and I’ll refer them to him. When it comes to, I think the different varieties, it’s not necessarily that you need to have a grasp or knowledge, even a flimsy grasp on, on the variety. But what’s important is that you understand the rules of that variety. You understand how variation works, you understand why variation happens, and you’re able to kind of explain it in a way that a jury is going to understand. So I think that the case I’ve just talked about, there is one example. It’s not about the varieties, it’s about how varieties work. That’s so I think that’s what’s important, knowing how variation works, why it happens. And being able to explain that, I think is the more important skill to have than actually having a kind of knowledge of the variety itself.

[Eva-Maria] Right. And that’s also what you mentioned at the beginning, where the actual training in linguistics comes in, because, as linguists, we know, you know, that variation happens and that it’s normal, and that we know, like how it develops over time. So yeah, that’s where you can apply that knowledge over someone who says they are native speaker of that variety.

[Nicci] We know that native speaker intuition is rubbish. That’s why corpus linguistics exists. It’s to show that actually, whenever native speakers might think about what they do, it’s very, very rarely backed up, when you look at the evidence, yeah, just kind of just being able to describe the processes at work so that they can be understood.

[Eva-Maria] So you already mentioned the case of Polish, for example, right? So if that person is charged with a crime, because of an audio recording, where they’re speaking polish, and it’s claimed that they say one thing, but they say they said another thing. If someone is interrogated or investigated for crime in their non native language, so for that person, the non native language would be English. Yes. So what are the what are some of the complications that could arise in these situations? Because it’s already quite a, they’re under pressure, right? It’s a high stakes situation. It’s intimidating as well. I know that, like my English is, is good. But I think that if I were interrogated by the police, I don’t know how proficient I would be.

[Nicci] Under pressure. Yeah, exactly. I mean, so like you say it’s a very intimidating situation to be in anyway, regardless of whatever efforts interviewers, you know, whatever lengths they go to the try and make interviewees feel comfortable and at home At the end of the day, one of you gets to go home and the other one may well not get to go home. So it doesn’t, there’s nothing you can really do to completely overcome that, that sort of power imbalance and that stressful, intimidating nature of that situation. And when it comes to non-native speakers of English, where the decision might have been made to bring in an interpreter to try and kind of ease communication between interviewer and interviewee, or in a court between the summoning barrister and the witness or defendant, whatever they might be, a whole load of theory kind of complex issues there with the the role of the interpreter, because probably the most obvious one is that I think the work of an interpreter is hugely undervalued by the legal system from investigation all the way through to trial, I think there’s an assumption that if you speak two languages with a native like, competence, then you can be an interpreter. And you know, that’s not the case, as we know, because you’re not, interpreters are not just there to not, they’re not sort of a bot, and not like a Google Translate, you know, where you can just kind of, you know, completely word for word translate one language into another. That’s not how it works, our language works anyway. And they’re not just there to bridge the gap between two languages, but also between two cultures, that can also sort of throw up a lot of complications. And that’s a real skill that interpreters have developed. And that’s, you know, for qualified interpreters, that will be something that they’ve, that they’ve worked on. And there’s this idea of sort of pragmatic equivalence as well. So it’s a good interpreter will make it so that whatever their client has just said, has the same impact on hearers in the target language as it would have done in the source language. And that kind of kind of trying to juggle that, as well as constantly being aware of possible impact of any misunderstandings, that’s something that needs to be constantly thinking about, if there’s even a slight change in what their client says in terms of the way it falls on the ears of the people that it’s being interpreted for, or vice versa, they need to be hyper aware of what these potential misunderstandings might lead to, because obviously, this is a very high stakes situation, it’s very important that everything is done accurately. And all these skills to be doing all of this simultaneously, is not simply being bilingual. This is a set of skills. And that’s something that I don’t think that the legal system really got to grips with. And it is, it does seem to be the assumption that, oh well this person speaks that language, so we’ll just kind of, kind of stick them in, they’ll just be this fine kind of objective conduit between that person and us and yeah, there’s no there’s no worries. And that’s not the case. And I think that’s that’s probably the biggest challenge that we need to overcome as far as kind of interpreter mediated exchanges go.

[Maria] How is research conducted in forensic linguistics? Do you work in a lab or ar ethere laboratory-based studies, or do you work simply at your university office?

[Nicci] Right.  Well, I mean, that very much depends on what the question is that we’re looking at. I mean, as I sort of said, at the beginning, watch out a pretty broad field. And if we’re going to be looking at, for example, the, the comprehensibility of, let’s say, jury instructions. So at the end of a trial, the judge will give jury their instructions. And they have, they’re off to a private room to deliberate. And there’s been some work that was done back in the 90s over in California, about how comprehensible those instructions actually were, you know, if there were anything there that was kind of maybe causing problems for people, in terms of their comprehension. All arose, incidentally, after the acquittal of OJ Simpson, I think everyone was a bit like, how did that happen? Right? The jury clearly didn’t understand like what they were supposed to be doing. So that’s, that was kind of a catalystic light for this work. That was a pretty big kind of project, the redrafting of the the California jury instructions, but the linguist that was involved in that was Peter Tiersma, sadly passed away now. But the work there would have been to do with sampling respondents and asking them to kind of look over the documents into, to basic report on what they found. And then sort of redrafting it and kind of running the same sort of comprehensibility tests again. And until it had something that was a bit more bit more workable and a bit more understandable for your average, you know, member of public, but yeah. So I mean, you talked about labs, and I can’t think of sort of labs in the traditional sense, really playing much of a part. But we’d run experiments, what we tend to work with usually is very naturally occurring language data. And it might not be that it’s natural in the sense of, well, in the ordinary sense of the word, can you I’m thinking of like a police interview is not very natural at all. But I mean, it’s, it’s, that’s the way that police interviews happen, regardless of whether or not a researcher, the linguistic researcher was going to come along afterwards and look at the recording and the transcript and kind of comment on, on the patterns of control, for example, that might be in there. So we tend to work mostly with naturally occurring data. But yeah, there are some some occasions that require a tighter sort of almost yet experimental kind of approach.

[Maria] And I forgot asking this earlier, but so I’ve got in my mind this image of a TV show Unabomber.

[Nicci] Yeah

[Maria] Yeah? It is, which is, I think, is really good. That case, obviously, was fully based on linguistic evidence. Have you or anyone you know, in the UK have solved a case fully based on linguistic evidence, or just as supporting evidence?

[Nicci] Well, that is a really good question. Yeah. So the Unabomber: Manhunt, the Netflix one I think we’re talking about is that right? The sort of… The FBI agent in that, Fitz, is based on Jim Fitzgerald, who is part of our forensic linguistics community. And I’ve met him on several occasions. And yeah, what happened in that case, was the Unabomber who I don’t know if your listeners gonna know about this, but he basically sent sort of mail bombs to most of people working at universities and airlines. And that’s where he bought his moniker, Unabomb. Yeah, he kind of wrote this manifesto about “ndustrial society and its future”, and he told the New York Times, and The Washington Post, “print my Manifesto, and I’m gonna stop sending mail bombs to people and maiming them and killing them.” And the news, I don’t know if they both did, or at least one of them did. They complied with this request. And they did a sort of double page spread of his manifesto. When that was published his sister in law, his brother’s wife actually first spotted it and said “this, this is Ted, this is your brother, he’s written this, this is so obviously him.” And she could tell there was something she she couldn’t put a finger on it, because she went to the FBI. And then they conducted a bit a bit more of rigorous kind of analysis on the text. And they compared it to some of his old, he’d done a PhD back in the 70s. And so there were a few essays knocking about different places that they could compare it to. And they established through looking at particular strings of words, that he that he was the author, they were various kind of co-selection, you know, to these choices of which words to kind of put together. And at the time, obviously, Google wasn’t what it is now, but that, you know, they put these strings of words through search engine, and all the results that came back were various online versions of the Unabomber Manifesto. So it was just completely such a tiny, tiny chance that there was anybody else that possibly could have authored this manifesto, his choices that he was making around particular lexical items. So I think the there’s probably been quite a lot of dramatic licence in that docu drama. I think there probably was other things I mean, that led to them getting a search warrant for his cabin, and that’s where they found all the bomb making equipment. And I would suggest that the bomb making equipment was probably more incriminating. Yeah, stronger evidence than the than the manifesto. And so I don’t know that it was completely based on linguistc evidence, although that, obviously is what sort of sent them. Yeah, exactly. And yeah, in this in sort of this country, I don’t think there have been any cases that have purely been based on the language. Because establishing that somebody is the author of a text, I would never even say that as a conclusion, because there were just too many unknowns. There’s not in existence, a database with every single individual in the whole, of English speaking individual even in the in the whole world, and exactly how they use language. That doesn’t exist, and it’s never going to exist, obviously, it’s ridiculous kind of concept. So we’re never going to be able to say with anything remotely like 100% certainty: this person definitely wrote this letter, because there’s always the possibility that someone else has got similar, make similar choices, have similar habits, a similar style, and so on. So I would normally kind of express it on a sort of a semantic scale of like, you know, in my opinion, it is quite likely that they are the author that’s probably about as strong as I’d ever be able to go. And it puts me in mind, really, one case, was my first court case, actually, which was a blackmail case. And so these letters had been sent to various elderly people that lived on this particular housing estate, saying, you know, we know what you did, if you don’t put a load of money into the bag and hide it behind that shed, then we’re going to tell everyone what you did, or, you know, there was all this kind of sort of threatening and demanding money, and the police had their suspect. And they had searched her house and they recovered lots of documents that were diaries and letters and other sort of bits and bobs that she’d written. And so my job, they came to me and they asked, Would I be able to compare these letters with these writings that they recovered from her house and comment on the possibility that she was the author, and there are lots of misspellings in the letters, which were also in the known documents, but they weren’t particularly uncommon misspellings for things like neighbours, but spelled N I E G H B O U R, other things like she wrote, instead of ‘ourselves’, she write ‘ourselfes’, and so that was kind of in both the blackmail letters. And in her known writings, and various other kind of little things like that, that were consistent through the two sets of documents. And so I’ve kind of completed the, in my opinion, it seemed fairly likely that she was the author. And I went and testified in court. And the defence had also instructed an expert, which I didn’t find out until I got to court was actually, had examined my PhD about three months previously, Allison May. So she was the opposing expert. And this was what they did in that case was actually got us in a room together to sort out what we agreed on and what we didn’t agree on so that we could then present that to the judge, and the judge could then save time that we would have spent each testifying. Instead, we gave a summary to the judge. But I did still testify, though. So obviously, the judge didn’t think that you have enough to go on with a sort of summary. But in that case, they also found in this woman’s shed, wrapped up in a bin bag that only had her fingerprints on it, was the typewriter and all typewriters are unique because of the particular indentations. The typewriter that was used to write these blackmail letters was in this bin bag in her shed. So you know, I’m kind of thinking it doesn’t really matter how she spelt neighbours or how many people on thinking that when I’ve googled it, how many people on the internet have spelled neighbours that way? When it comes down to it, I think a typewriter in her shed is probabl,  probably what kind of clinched it. So yes, she was convicted. But I and you know, it’s obviously the language had a role. But as in most cases, I think there’s always other evidence and I would always suggest that it’s considered alongside.

[Eva-Maria] Wow, that’s super interesting. Yeah. It’s just opening all of our eyes probably to all of these kinds of things that we don’t consider in crime investigation because also we’re not obviously not investigators. But that’s it’s very, very eye opening. Yeah. So coming back to the whole because already asked the question about the regional accents. I kind of want to come back to that because when I was reading about like your previous work, I came across your master’s dissertation, which was titled “He sounds guilty -regional accents and attributions of guilt”, which I found like the just the title alone, I was like, What Whoa, we need to talk about this. Because we at Bilingualism Matters we just recently like last, I guess a year ago, in the winter of 2020, we started a campaign called Accent Positivity where all accentsare beautiful basically, and you should kind of overcome your prejudices. Right. So what kind of role do prejudices regarding language and accents play in that kind of work? Because you kind of already hinted on it. But with that title of your master’s dissertation, you know, he sounds guilty that wow.

[Nicci] Yeah. So as you know, there are lots of stereotypes around regional accents. And people think that they can deduce certain things about a person’s character based on the way that they speak and so on. And you mentioned your project there. And this is what Manchester I think Rb Drummond is doing a lot of work around accent ism, and, and so on. So yeah, so that work that I did for my Masters was actually inspired by the work that was done in Australia, looking at how people judged speakers, and I think he had a sort of Anglo Australian speaker, an Asian Australian speaker and an RP speaker. Yeah, so you run some attitude tests in the sort of traditional vein of aptitude tests, you know, like questions based on their status, affiliation, and so on, but then also added in this kind of crime, you know, possibility that this person committed particular crimes. And this was sort of kind of replicated in the UK, sort of attributions of guilt based on a Birmingham accent. So what I did with my Masters was kind of develop that a bit more. And I had a Midlands speaker, a Liverpool, quite sort of broad Scouse accent, a Cornish speaker, and an RP speaker, and had them doing you know, this, what you would expect from an attitude status, you know, they would kind of talk about what they’d done that day. And it was played to a number of judges, I was interested in maybe interactions between these kind of scores that they gave for sort of status and affiliation, and dynamism, so on how that might interact with how guilty they perceived to be a particular crimes, and had different crime types as well. So I had sort of violence against the person, criminal damage, check fraud. And obviously, when people are rating somebody as being quite high for things like intelligence, then they’re also rating them as probably most likely to have committed a check fraud because you have to be quite intelligent to carry out that kind of crime. So the RP speaker really got it in the neck for the check fraud, but was absolutely spot free for violence against the person and for criminal damage and smashing up a car or something. The poor Scouser obviously was just massively rated very highly being very likely to have carried out this criminal damage, the Midlands speaker, he was kind of perceived as pretty much too boring to have done anything (laughter). Poor, poor, guy (laughter). And then Cornish speaker for sort of the lovely, would love to get another point with this guy, like really friendly, really down to earth, and absolutely no way that he did any of these, he’s far nice to have done any of these awful crimes. Yeah. So I mean, it was it was as expected, essentially, it was just getting it down, like, you know, rigorously investigating stereotypes around accents. And yeah, the findings were precisely what we didn’t expect.

[Eva-Maria] Yeah. But that’s, that doesn’t make it less, it doesn’t make less tragic for the people.

[Nicci] Oh, no, of course. Yeah, exactly. It’s terrible. When you’ve got an, obviously you’ve got to think about the real world. And obviously, this is research conditions. But yes, the real world ramifications of that of it, or juries are made up of these ordinary people that go to pubs and social clubs, and whatever. And what’s the impact that somebody’s regional accent is actually going to have on their chances in the criminal justice system? And it’s Yeah, it’s really, really very worrying.

[Maria] And for your PhD, you did a critical discourse analysis, which sounded really interesting as well. How does that work help people understand police work, like the critical discourse analysis? How does that work help people understand police work? And how does it help improve police investigations in the future or in the present?

[Nicci] Yeah, that work I carried out because I sort of set out with a particular agenda as, as most people that sort of engage with critical discourse analysis do. It’s very obvious to me that, you know, appallingly low conviction rates for rape, appalling rate at which cases are just dropping out of the system before they even get to court. So talking about a 5% conviction rate, but most of these cases are not even getting that far. They’re falling out for some reason before they get there. It’s a hugely underreported crime. And then if it is reported, huge numbers, the rate at which cases are dropping out is massive. And then, you know, cases to get to court. We’re looking at 5% conviction rate. And so I was very interested in what happens in that really critical stage where the police have had a report and then they conduct their investigation, what’s going wrong, there that means that so often finding the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) are deciding not to pursue a particular case. And I think this sort of from a critical perspective, you know, critical discourse analysis is concerned with power imbalances. It’s concerned with kind of uncovering, uncovering things that might be slightly hidden from view, but just sort of kind of demystifying and making it very obvious. these biases are these patterns of domination, these inequalities, they are then and they exist. And this is how this is how they kind of played out. And this is how they’re maintained and so on. And so I was very interested to see, is there any evidence? Because we know that there’s a huge mythology around sexual violence, who it happens to, who does it, what causes it, so on and so forth? So I sort of thought, well, I wonder if there’s any evidence of those myths in the interview room? Is there anything in the talk of your interviewers that kind of belies the existence of these beliefs, stereotypes, myths, whatever you want to call them kind of bubbling away under the surface somehow, and it’s in, I think when I kind of started that work, I was very much thinking, no, I want nothing less than complete institutional overhaul the way they’re doing, it’s absolutely awful. We absolutely need to overhaul the whole system. And as I kind of progressed during that work, and then in subsequent things that we’ve done afterwards, we’ve actually worked with police forces, or came around to the idea of thinking that actually, this is something that we need to change from within, like, if we can get involved, as soon as police officers come in to start doing this kind of work. Getting in and tackling those kinds of beliefs really early on, that’s the best chance that we’ve actually got of trying to get rid of the the impact of those kinds of beliefs, on the way that interviews are conducted. Because there was evidence in some of these interviews, of interviewers subscribing on some level to particular beliefs about victim blaming, or about particular ways that people should respond to particular actions or particular ways that people should behave if they want to avoid this happening, and so on. Those things were there. I mean, they weren’t glaringly obvious, wouldn’t have an interviewer just sort of walking in and saying, All right, so were you wearing a short skirt? You know, this is these are things that had to be picked out of what was actually being said. Yeah, it wouldn’t necessarily be about the police officers own individual beliefs. It could be more that they’re sort of trying to prepare the case for further down the line, this is what people are going to be sort of questioning. So if we can sort of address these questions now, then that means that it’s there, it’s on the record. And so if later people have queries about why this happened, or whatever, then it’s all been dealt with. So there may be kind of pre empting what they know jurors or prosecutors, the questions that they might have further down the line. Yeah, so like I mentioned there, this did feed into training. So we sort of took findings of our research on the road to a couple of different various police forces around the UK. And we actually took these findings out to training interviewers and try to address some things around how interaction even work with thought will be useful for interviewers to know For example, you the police officer, are very aware that that tape recorder, and those cameras and everything in the room actually represent a much wider future use for this interaction. And this is not an awareness that the interviewee is necessarily going to have, as far as they’re concerned. They’re sitting there, they’re talking to you to talking through things like audience design for you, police officer, your audience is the CPS, your fellow officers, jury judge, so on further down the line, but for the interviewee, there’s you, there’s just you and that’s, that’s all they’re gonna be aware of, and just sort of kind of explaining and talking through these kinds of things with offices is, I think, quite useful. The feedback we’ve got suggested that it was going to be useful for them anyway.

[Eva-Maria] And speaking of your work, and the discourse around reporting, rape, there’s now a lot of talk, especially on social media, especially where, you know, the accounts that I follow, where we need to change the language surrounding this the whole discourse, where instead of saying she was raped, putting the blame on the victim, because it’s a passive, changing it to someone raped her. It’s not her fault, right?

[Nicci] Yeah, exactly. And then you’ve got another step further. Yeah, the passivization is, there’s all sort of nominalization you know, ‘a rape occurred’. And it’s just kind of, and then you get to the stage with absolutely completely impossible to ask, you know, who’s doing this? Because it’s not even portrayed as an action. So yeah, exactly.

[Eva-Maria] Yeah. And that, of course, doesn’t help the the narrative, right, if you then get asked,  if you only hear like, Oh, you were raped. Yeah, you were raped you, you know. And then, and you were wearing a short skirt, and you were out late, and you were walking the streets alone.

[Nicci] Yeah.

[Eva-Maria] That’s completely changes the entire discourse, right. And I don’t think that people see how much language matters in this.

[Nicci] Yeah, exactly. And I’ve got, we’ve got sort of gotten kind of examples from the data that I was looking at during my PhD there, where you’re kind of thinking, you’re an investigating officer. And even if you’ve got the blinkers on and all you’re bothered about is this investigation, then you’re making the wrong choices. I mean, even if things that you’re talking about, you know, the wider discourses around sexual violence, how harmful that is for victims and how harmful it is for justice. Even if you’re just thinking about the investigation. You’re Still going about things the wrong way. So I had one where the victim had said that she’d she said, so she was out with these two guys. And they both came back to her house, one of them went on to rape her. And she said, they said to me, when we come back to your house, and I said, Okay, fine, it’s not very often I get company. And then the officer said, so you’d said, they could come back to your house, because you were enjoying the company. Now, firstly, she never said she was enjoying it. All she said was she didn’t very often get company and she didn’t have a problem with it, which is not really quite as strong as enjoying it. And secondly, it was their suggestion. So surely that should be the emphasis here that they suggested it is. It’s not potentially evidence of premeditation, that that he actually always intended to come back and attack you. Instead, it’s it’s just all the focus is on her like, Why she said, yes. She enjoys company. And she said, Yes, because if that is explaining, of course, you need to explain why, why you’ve invited these two men to come back to your house. Obviously, we need an explanation for that. Well, no, actually, it’s not obvious, you need to explain that kind of behaviour. And it’s really there, I mean, what inspired me to start that work was, I think it was 1986. The panorama broadcast tis fly on the wall documentary, they follow Thames Valley police round for, you know, some time documenting their day, day to day work. And at one point, a detective came to the camera crew and said, we’ve just had a woman come in, reporting a rape, you really need to come and see how we do it. And he was really proud of how they went about wheeling out weak cases, basically invited the camera crew in and this interview is just is just the most abysmal, it’s just a painful thing to watch. You’ve got three male officers, interviewing this one woman who’s clearly vulnerable, they talk about how she’s having mental health difficulties in the past and so on, and how she she’s known to them so that they know that they know her, and the questions, they’re asking her, like the things that you would have to accept this true to make any kind of sense of the questions that they’re asking. So you know, well, she said, I didn’t even know these guys. Well, you left the pub with them. You’re a woman. And I think you’re not showing any emotion, every so often, you get a little tear, there’s no emotion, as if, you know, there’s a standard way to react to respond to having been raped, and she just wasn’t fulfilling the the expected criteria. Therefore, it was clearly a unstable case. And, and they were really proud of it. But it at least lead to public outcry when it was actually screened on BBC, there was this huge outcry that we shouldn’t be treating vulnerable women in this way. And that did lead to the home office actually rolling out these sort of recommendations. Some of the recommendations, you just think, duh, like what rape victims should be treated with tact and sensitivity? Oh, really? Oh, wow. You know, thanks, glad the Home Office is here to tell us that. And, you know, they should be examined by a female doctor where possible, there should be bespoke suites for actually doing this examination and for interviewing, it led to a lot of changes, which is good, but I mean, it’s just absolutely shocking to watch. That’s, that’s what inspired me to kind of think, Well, you know, how much has really changed? And well, quite a lot has to be fair, but you know, there are still these beliefs are still bubbling under the surface.

[Eva-Maria] So we’re going to continue down the road of sensitive topics, because he also did a lot of research on online sex offences on minors in different online forums. Right. This resulted in a book that you published last year, in March 2020. And that book is called “Language and online identities, the undercover policing of internet sexual crime”. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

[Nicci] Yeah. So the the book is the product of I think, altogether three funded projects that I worked on at Aston with Professor Tim Grant. And these were all sort of focused on the relationship between language and identity, but particularly in the context of online investigations against child sex offenders. And it all kind of arose from I think, Tim had a sort of a chance meeting with somebody who was in charge of a sort of a training unit of training officers who were already trained as undercover officers, but for whatever reason, couldn’t continue in that role. So they will now training to become undercover online operatives. So undercover officers. So one of the tasks that these operatives regularly engage in, if you can imagine a scenario where a child has been identified as at risk, so say a parent or guardian has discovered chats on their computer and established that they have been conversing with an adult online, and there’s some some sexual contents to the conversations. So that child will be removed to a place of safety, often against their will. They very often they’ve been groomed to believe that they’re in a relationship with this individual. But anyway, they’re removed a place of safety. They obviously can’t be put back into that dangerous situation, but the police do need to identify the person responsible, they need to effect an arrest of the person with a need to keep other children safe. And so a police officer and undercover officer will take the place of the child and attempt to do a convincing enough impression of that child, that the offender will be convinced by it, and set up a meeting under the guise of coming to meet a child so that they could be arrested. And so that’s the kind of context that we’re working with. And we’re thinking, what do these officers need to get right about linguistic performance in order to successfully assume an alternative identity. And so we’re kind of looking at things that are quite obvious maybe to a lot of people, which are that, um, things from the spelling and, and things like that, you know, if you’re going to do an impression of somebody else, those sorts of things that you’d think out, trying to manipulate in your own language to try and sound a bit more like them. But it goes beyond that, really. For a lot of adult undercover officers, that might feel very uncomfortable, and they’re supposed to be playing the role of a 14 year old girl, they perhaps feel quite uncomfortable about the idea of introducing sexual topics. But if that’s something that this little girl has done in the past, then they need to keep that up, it needs to be something that’s consistent, otherwise, it’s going to be an immediate red flag to the perpetrator, and it’s going to blow their cover. And they’re going to lose that perpetrator, who then is obviously free to continue abusing children. We also sort of talk around pragmatics. So is this somebody who has, in the past issued a lot of orders or asked a lot of questions or you know, how pragmatically what type of a person was this child, and we really encouraged the officers that got involved in the training, and really kind of encouraged him to think about beyond that kind of structural level, beyond things like spelling and punctuation, so on. And really to get a more realistic idea of who linguistically who this person is, who are you trying to be. So the work we did was looking at data from various sources, it started off looking at data from somebody that was operating a chat room on a now defunct platform called Winmx. And they were writing a chat room, the guy was called Timothy Cox, and from his remote farmhouse in Norfolk, he was operating this international chat room, which was completely centred on swapping, abusive images and abusive videos of sexual abuse of children. So they managed to arrest Cox, this operation really very highly kind of polished operation to get him before he could get to the wipe button on his computer, or whatever it was, they managed to get him. But obviously, he was in contact with however many hundreds of child sex offenders around the world who all needed to be identified, there are all these children in the images and the videos that needed to be identified, needed to be rescued. So that was the first lot of data really was from that chat room from sort of private messages between members of those chat rooms, from undercover officers who infiltrated these rings and posed as other offenders in order to kind of befriend the genuine offenders that were there. And we also had data from sort of training scenarios as part of their training, these officers engage in sort of roleplay, where one of their senior officers will play the part of the perpetrator, and they have to play the part of themselves playing the part of the child, if that makes sense. They’re putting themselves in that sort of operational context of doing the identity assumption tasks. And they’ve got one of their senior officers. And another part of the building was role playing the part of the perpetrator that also formed some of our data. We also had data from the dark web. So I mean, it’s not just horrible stuff on now, there’s lots of reasons why you might want your online activities to be completely anonymous. You know, there’s political activism on there, there’s all kinds of things that just not sort of things that we’re to be necessarily really concerned with. That there’s also a lot of stuff that we really, really should be. There’s, there’s gun runners, there’s drug dealers, and crucially, there are people sharing images, sharing media, even just sharing stories of use, of acts that they’ve carried out and so on. So that formed another part of the data that we looked at how people are using language, how that kind of interacts with their identity, if we’re looking at sort of hierarchies within particular chat rooms, for example, with a particular role that someone is taken up in relation to a given community. So yeah, all that kind of dark web encrypted stuff forms and the experiments that I took earlier, as well. So yeah, I mean, lots of very varied data, which I think we got some way towards kind of addressing the question of that relationship between language and identity and sort of what parts of our identity are sort of fixed and which are more sort of in flux and more kind of variable and very much open to the to depending on the situation, depending on the kind of particular interaction or moment we’re engaged in at time and so on. So we kind of tapped into those questions in the book. Wow.

[Maria] And you’ve mentioned quite a lot of cases that there was dealt with in the book and then throughout the whole interview, so we were wondering if there’s any specific case or experience that you would highlight from your career as a forensic linguist.

[Nicci] Yes. Okay. So one case that I worked on was a case that was heard at Bristol Crown Court. And this was to do with, this was a murder case. And it was to do with murder of a young lad who’s 21, Dolton Powell his name was, and he was killed, he was stabbed outside of party in Gloucester, sort of on the outskirts of Gloucester. And I was, I worked for the prosecution on this case, I was approached by the police. And what they had was audio recordings. And these were audio recordings that they themselves had made, they’d made them covertly. Because what happened was they’d arrested six or seven suspects. After this murder, they had them in custody. And so they’re all obviously in separate cells. And what they wanted to do was to extend the time they could keep them, they wanted more time to to question them all. And so each time they wanted an extension to the time they could keep doing custody, they needed to go to the local magistrate’s court. And each time they did that they took the suspects as they were then with them. And you know, they couldn’t afford for each of these suspects to have their own vans. So they were transported in twos and threes between the police station and the magistrate’s court. And the investigating officers thought, Well, you know, they’ve been on their own in separate cells this whole time, this is going to be the first time that you know, that they’ve seen each other since they were arrested. So there’s a strong potential that they’re going to talk to each other about the case. And this could be really important evidence for us. So again, with the permission of the judge, they installed covert audio recording devices in the backs of these vans. And they recorded the lads talking to each other. And when they recovered the recordings and listened to them, they thought that there’s something strange going on here, because some of it is in standard English, and we can understand it fine. But there’s nothing particularly incriminating, they don’t think there’s not not much substance, what they’re saying there. But there are these other chunks that where they’re talking to each other very fluently, and clearly understanding each other, that this is not standard English. And it’s not a language that we recognise, there seems like, and this was the way it was put to me by the officer that approached me, we are talking in code in these sections. So this required, on my part, very, very careful close listening to the recordings, I had transcripts that the police had supplied, but there was lots missing there, they were there, there were lots of inaccuracies, and so on. So, so I had to produce my own transcription. And these audio recordings have these, I noticed how they had these chunks that were on first listening pretty much indecipherable. But then I realised that there was a particular sound that kept being repeated. And I thought, well, maybe there’s something in that that sound that we keep hearing peppered throughout the these chunks of talk. And it was a syllable, ‘-eyg’, the syllable was ‘-eyg’, right. So we tried to transcribe it as E Y G , that’s how I would write it orthographically. So what I did was on the transcript that I’d made kind of isolated all these ‘-eygs’, and what does it look like without those in, and it looked like Standard English when you removed all those syllables. So they would say, and there was some, I mean, it was quite a few kind of chunks. So one bit was (gibberish). When you take the ‘-eygs’ out, and it’s like, ‘Wavy told me to get in the whip. So I’ve gotten the whip’, whip being car and a non standard term for car. And then it goes on with lots of ‘-eygs’, and he drove off, wave my leg, whatever. There’s another bit where it said he had his (gibberish) – he had a stabproof vest on. Now I’m sorry, right. Now, it’s not my usual attire for a party, a stab proof vest, but this guy had gone wearinga stabproof vest. And this is obviously kind of some kind of indication that I think, not necessarily planned something to go down with knives at the party, but at least you know, expected it. So this is obviously useful information for the case. And so I testified in that case, and most of them were acquitted, but the one who had his (gibberish) vest on, he was convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison.

[Eva-Maria] That’s, that’s a quite clever thing to do. And it must have taken them quite a while to be, to get proficient, right?

[Nicci] Well, this is the interesting thing, I think, because these lads have known each other since they were small. And if you ever heard of Pig Latin, a game that children play so the dinnerlady can’t tell that they’re up to no good. And I think it was a similar thing. It’s a bit of variation on say, Eyg-Latin, rather than Pig Latin. But I think they’ve been speaking it since they were tiny little boys, and they will say their last word is so fluent, and they understood each other perfectly. And obviously the police officers were just… no idea.

[Eva-Maria] It’s quite interesting that just a single syllable can make that something unintelligible. Right? That’s Wow.

[Nicci] And even with the use, I was even using sort of software, you know, to try to isolate the sounds I was thinking, if I can actually see them visually, then maybe I’ll be able to work out what the sounds are. But because obviously every decent language game as this is the insertion of that syllable affects the quality of the sounds around it. So you can’t necessarily even tell. So there were still chunks that I couldn’t even though I knew the rule, there were still chunks that I couldn’t actually say what it was that they were saying.

[Eva-Maria] Well, that was super interesting, though. And good job.

[Nicci] Yeah, I think that’s a highlight. Working that out was a real Eureka moment.

[Eva-Maria] I can imagine, it must be so satisfying to be like, oh finally. Wow. Wow. So um, we have one question left, and that for our guests is usually: do you have anything to plug? Do you have any future projects lined up?

[Nicci] Yes. So the one thing I’m working on at the moment is my plenary address for the International Association of Forensic Linguistics, they’re having their bi-annual conference, I’ve also got a currently got a funding bid in for Research Network, and to speak with the HRC research network called Forensic Linguistics in the North, or FLIN. Because there’s obviously, there’s a big hub of forensic linguistics activity based around Aston University in Birmingham. It’s a bit of a hub in Cardiff as well. And there’s not really anything going on further north. I mean, there are, but they’re sort of dotted around. And there’s not really a kind of organising structure to sort of bring these people together. And we know, I know that there are, there are linguists, but there are also people working in other related areas of academia, they’re criminologists and cultural studies scholars, and computer scientists, and so on, who are all, you know, to some, to some level working in areas that are highly relevant to our field. And it’s so, it’s an attempt to kind of bring them together as well as students that are interested in the area and as well as practitioners who can get something from us, so I’ve invited some defence lawyers to come along to some of our events to hopefully address some of the issues that I was talking about earlier, where questionable expertise is being admitted on behalf of prosecution and I really want to sort of help defence teams to have something that they can pull out of the bag in response to those kinds of things. And, you know, invited to me from National Crime Agency. So fingers crossed, that we’ll get some funding to do that to bring all these people together, learn from each other.

[Eva-Maria] Perfect. Fingers crossed.

[Nicci] Yes, definitely. Yeah.

[Eva-Maria] Perfect. Yeah, that was, that was it. Thank you so much, Nikki, for introducing us to the world of forensic linguistics, because that was super interesting. quite intense, but very interesting.

[Nicci] Yes. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, it does have its intense moments. But yeah, like I say, mostly marking stacks of papers taller than me. But yeah there we go,  that’s the truth.

[Eva-Maria] Yeah that’s the life of a lecturer in academia. Yeah. Yeah. But, again, really, thank you. We really appreciate that you took the time, and that you brought the world of forensic linguistics a little closer to us. Thank you, Maria, for joining today. Really appreciate it.

[Nicci] A pleasure.

[Eva-Maria] That was our first episode back. We hope you learned as much as we did. And we hope you agree that this is a highly interesting branch of linguistics that is underrepresented and underappreciated. So after this eye opening episode to start off season two, make sure to subscribe to our social media channels and sign up to our newsletter. As I mentioned in the beginning, for every episode, you can find the transcription on our website as well, mlstpodcast. com, and there’s a link to projects, books and people that have been mentioned in the episode as well. If we mentioned terms and linguistic jargon that you are not familiar with, you can find the definition in our glossary on the website. Yeah, and that was it. We will hopefully welcome you back in two weeks. As always, stay safe, stay healthy and Doei (Dutch for Bye).

[Maria] Ciao (Italian for Bye)

[Nicci] Hwyl fawr (Welsh for Goodbye)

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