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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3233 Forensic Approaches to Language

20 creditsClass Size: 30


Module manager: Dr Alison Johnson

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

Pre-requisite qualifications

Students wishing to take this module must have passed an introduction to language study in the School of English or another department (such modules include 'Language, Text and Context', 'Foundations of Language Study', 'Language Methodologies and Research Methods', a Level 1 module in Linguistics and Phonetics, or similar modules in other departments in Modern Languages). Other students who have an A in English Language A-level and who wish to do this module should consult the module tutor, as should any student who is uncertain whether they meet the pre-requisite requirements.

Please note: This module is restricted to Level 2 and 3 students.

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module introduces students to a new and emerging field of language study: forensic linguistics. This applied and multidisciplinary field focuses on language use in legal settings: courtrooms, police interview rooms, and legal documents. We examine stylistic, discoursal and pragmatic features of text and talk within this specialised institutional setting and examine a variety of linguistic issues, including: narrative, questioning, power, control and resistance. We look at the ways that scholars of language have approached the legal analysis of texts and talk as investigators, critics and observers and do some of our own observation of legal language in action through a Court visit and discussion. This module may appeal to students from law, sociology and psychology as well as students in English and linguistics.


By the end of the module students will be able to demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of aspects of institutional language use in a selected area of the legal process and understand the role of language as an investigative tool in the study of written and spoken language in legal contexts.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
Critical reasoning.
Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
IT skills.
Time management and organisational skills.
Independent learning.


This module introduces students to forensic linguistic study, looking at written and spoken language use in legal contexts through a number of case studies and texts. Topics covered will include: the study of courtroom interaction, including a visit to a local court; legal language in statutes and legal register and meaning; storytelling and questioning in police interviewing and courtroom discourse; the analysis of disputed texts and authorship. Students will explore web-based resources, books and journals and develop critical analytical skills in relation to the analysis of power, control, justice and injustice. In this module students will be encouraged to draw on a wide range of knowledge of language gained elsewhere in their study.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus up to 5 additional hours (content to be determined by the module tutor). The 5 additional hours may include lectures, plenary sessions, film showings, or the return of unassessed/assessed essays.

Private Study: Seminar preparation, reading, assignment writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contribution to seminars
1st assessed assignment (Week 7)

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Assignment1,700 words33.30
Assignment2,750 words66.70
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 24/04/2008


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