Elementary, my dear Watson

Posted by on November 29, 2010

I have to confess, I like a good detective story, as long as there’s something unusual about the method of investigation, so Vicki Hollett’s recent blog on forensic inguistics caught my eye. I’m actually a fan of both of the TV shows she mentions, as well as ones with, respectively, a deaf FBI agent, a blind cop and a highly dysfunctional father-son combo (I know, I know, I watch way too much TV).

The idea of linguistic detective-work is great though, and the video clip in Vicki’s post is fascinating, especially where it ventures into the way linguistic markers can be used to identify instances of cheating or plagiarism in students’ work. We all know that writing style can be very distinctive, but so can the type and form of language used. So, as well as enabling us to work out who really sent that text the other night(!), forensic linguistics can also help us keep our students on the straight and narrow.

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