Forensic Linguistics
Jobs & Degrees for Forensic Phonetics Careers

What is Forensic Linguistics? Forensic linguistics jobs involve using language & applying it to crime scenes & court cases. Learn more about Forensic Phonetics

The interaction between language and the legal system is a branch of criminology called forensic phonetics.

Whereas forensic anthropology deals mostly with bones, forensic odontology with teeth, and forensic psychology with the mind, forensic linguistics is all about words.

How do words come into play with a criminal investigation? In more ways than you probably think.

The forensic linguistics specialist is responsible for investigating:

  • Ransom notes
  • Interrogation statements
  • Signed confessions
  • Recorded threats
  • Suspect’s understanding of Miranda rights
  • And much more
forensic linguistics

Whenever words, either written or spoken, come into play in a criminal investigation—or even civil disputes—a forensic linguistics specialist may be called upon to provide their opinions on authenticity, identification, significance, or meaning.

Because a better than basic understanding of language is of the utmost important to forensic linguistics, the specialist needs to be well versed in almost every aspect of how language is used and perceived.

Some of these aspects include:

  • Syntax – Meaning of different combinations of words
  • Phonetics – Sound systems in human language
  • Pragmatics – Conversational language
  • Dialectology – Regional language identity

The forensic phonetics specialist needs to first be knowledgeable in every facet of human language before he or she can aid in a criminal investigation.

Forensic Linguistics Jobs

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Forensic linguistics covers a broad range of duties and responsibilities. Most often, unless the organization for which you work is very small, you will be employed with a number of other people in the forensic linguistics department, each with your separate focuses and specialties.

There are two basic categories, though, in the study of forensic language: forensic texts and legal texts.

forensic phonetics

Forensic texts refer to any number of texts that may be used in a criminal investigation or before a court of law. Such documents may include: emergency call transcriptions, ransom letters, suicide notes, and more.

Legal texts and processes deal with the court of law. These refer to confessions, cross examinations, wills, court judgments, and more.

Another big part of the forensic linguistics job is the analyzing and interpretation of audio language, taken from phone calls and left on recorded messages.

Identification, however, is by far one of the most important jobs of the forensic linguistics specialist.

Establishing authors of notes and owners of voices plays a big role in closing a criminal investigation satisfactorily.

Getting Your Forensic Linguistics Degree

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Think a career in criminology is for you?

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It requires a great deal of study to become a specialist in forensic linguistics. Not only do you have to go to school for your education, but you must always stay abreast of current findings and research through journals, websites, and association conferences. Staying current in this field is just as important as being on the cutting edge for computer forensics, believe it or not.

Language is an ever evolving phenomenon, and it is up to the forensic linguistics specialist to keep his or her finger on the pulse of today’s word usage.

The first thing you need to do is get a bachelor’s degree. You can do this easily and inexpensively online by earning your degree in psychology, criminal justice, or criminology from a web-based college or university.

Then you need to get your master’s degree in linguistics. It pays to have an advanced degree—especially a PhD—in this field. Not only will you make much more money on average than those with just a bachelor’s degree, but you can be capable of performing more tasks, such as providing expert testimony on the witness stand.

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