Stylistics and Questioned Authorship

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Stylistics and Questioned Authorship

The focus of forensic stylistics is author identification of questioned writings. Linguistic stylistics uses two approaches to authorship identification: qualitative and quantitative. The work is qualitative when features of writing are identified and then described as being characteristic of an author. The work is quantitative when certain indicators are identified and then measured in some way, e.g., their relative frequency of occurrence in a given set of writings. Certain quantitative methods are referred to as stylometry. Qualitative and quantitative methods complement one another and are often used together to identify, describe, and measure the presence or absence of style-markers in questioned and known writings.



2. Fill in the chart with appropriate information from the text and retell it.



3. Render the text below in English.




СУДЕБНАЯ ЛИНГВИСТИКА - достаточно новая и быстро развивающаяся сфера прикладной лингвистики, применяемая при рассмотрении гражданских и уголовных дел. Задачи судебной лингвистики включают в себя интерпретацию устных и письменных текстов, установление авторства, плагиата, анализ различных юридических документов, таких как договоры, завещания, постановления суда, повестки в суд и любые другие спорные документы, требующие оценки эксперта. С развитием предпринимательской деятельности помощь судебного лингвиста требуется при исследовании товарных знаков, девизов и слоганов на предмет их эквивалентности другим товарным знакам. Объекты судебной лингвистической экспертизы – это материальные объекты, содержащие произведения устной или письменной речи, таких как аудио или видеозаписи и тексты документов, фигурирующие в качестве вещественных доказательств при рассмотрении дела. Субъекты судебной лингвистической экспертизы – это лица, обладающие необходимыми познаниями для достижения целей экспертизы, решения стоящих перед ней задач.

По мере развития судебной лингвистики в самостоятельную науку, все большее значение приобретают различные области судебной лингвистики. Так, основой задачей слуховой и акустической фонетики является определение речевых характеристик говорящего, включая влияние акцента или диалекта, а также возраста, физического и психологического состояния и социальной принадлежности подозреваемого. Семантический и прагматический анализ письменных текстов и устных высказываний подразумевает интерпретацию двусмысленных текстов и документов, язык которых вызывает трудности для понимания среди людей, не имеющих отношения к правовой сфере. Ярким примером такого документа являются инструкции, которые присяжные получают от судьи перед вынесением вердикта. Объектом судебной стилистики традиционно является установление авторства текста, выявление текстовых заимствований с целью установления факта плагиата и т.д.








1. Look through the text and match the subtitles with the necessary passage:

  • Deciphering the Content of Difficult Recordings
  • Speaker Profile
  • Voice line-ups
  • Speaker Identification
  • Tape Authentication



The use of phonetics as a forensic tool has developed over the past 20 years or so, but with the rapid expansion in the number of cases depending on the evidence of covert audio and video recordings in recent years, forensic phonetics now plays a crucial role in an increasing number of criminal trials. A forensic phonetician may be asked to prepare reports in a number of areas, of which the following five are the most frequently encountered:


1. __________________________

Speaker identification is carried out by a combination of auditory and acoustic methods (and, where appropriate, some text analysis methods) and provides an opinion as to whether a particular voice, for example recorded making a telephone call, or participating in a conversation recorded by a recording device, is that of a particular known person.

Speaker identification may be requested for a number of different criminal offences, such as making hoax calls to the police, ambulance or fire brigade using speech disguise, making threatening or harassing telephone calls, blackmail or extortion demands, or taking part in criminal conspiracies such as those involving the importation, trafficking or manufacture of illegal drugs.

Speaker identification may also be required in civil cases or for the media. These cases include calls to radio stations, local or other government authorities, insurance companies, or recorded conversations of different meetings. We have also been instructed in personal or family matters where identification is sought, but without police involvement.

2. _______________________________

Speaker analysis becomes relevant when there is a speech recording of an anonymous offender and the police investigation has not yet come up with a suspect. A single voice can give a lot of information about the perpetrator. Thus, a combination of phonetic and linguistic analysis of a voice can help to establish the information about the speaker’s background. For example, speaker profiling is regularly requested in the early stages of kidnappings, where a recording of the kidnapper’s voice may be the only clue to his or her identity. Using voice analysis it is possible to get the information about the speaker’s sex, age, regional and social background, and such peculiarities as speech disorders. Establishing a speaker profile helps in defining a ‘target’ population and thereby narrowing the search for the culprit. Detailed phonetic analysis may also serve to indicate whether a speaker is intoxicated or not, although the precise effects of alcohol on speech are not clearly understood or consistent across individuals. More recently, sociophonetic analysis has been used as evidence to indentify the origins of asylum seekers in some European countries, in order to verify the legitimacy of their asylum claims.


3. __________________________

Tape analysis is necessary to indentify whether the given tape recording is the original or a copy. Thorough listening and analysis can help to find any possible traces of manipulation. Sometimes certain sections of the tape are excised or perhaps transposed. It is not generally within the competence of a phonetician to give an opinion as to the physical condition of a tape, but there may be evidence within the acoustic signal for example abrupt changes in either the signal itself or the background noise which would indicate electronic editing. However, currently available software makes ‘seamless’ editing comparatively easy, and a phonetician may be needed to give an opinion on only the linguistic evidence in the form of unnatural changes in rhythm, tempo or intonation.


4. ___________________________

This technique is used to eliminate all kinds of interference that disturb recordings of human voices. Due to noisy environments or to the use of regular or mobile telephones, law enforcement units are often unable to understand the words spoken by the offender. To improve intelligibility, a variety of filtering tools are used to extract the desired signal from the distorted material. If it is impossible to improve the quality, the experts have to decode the questioned utterances with patience and experience.

5. ____________________________

The practice of confronting witnesses of a crime with a tape recorded ‘voice line-up’, where the voice of a suspect is included amongst a series of other voices, may be used to obtain evidence in cases where, in the course of committing a crime, an unseen or masked perpetrator spoke in the presence of the witnesses. This recording is played to the witness(es) and they are asked to state whether they can identify any of the voices as that of the perpetrator. A phonetician may be consulted on aspects of the construction of the tape and the administration of the confrontation.



  1. Read the text and answer the following questions:


  1. What is speaker identification and when is this method used?
  2. How can forensic phoneticians help the investigation if the police haven’t found the suspect?
  3. When is speaker profile requested?
  4. What is tape analysis used for? Is it possible to prove that some sections of the tape have been excised or transposed? How?
  5. What technique is used to eliminate the interference that disturbs a recording?
  6. How can a forensic expert improve speech intelligibility on the tape?
  7. What is a voice line-up? What purposes is it used for?


  1. Make up a short summary of the text.




Read the text. Make up the plan for the text. What title would be the most suitable for it?









3.2.1. _______________________________________________



Perhaps somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of all forensic cases involve method of speaker identification (SID): that is, identifying a person who spoke in a criminal recording by means of comparative phonetic testing. A ‘criminal recording’ in this context may be anything from a hoax bomb warning recorded over an emergency telephone line, to a death threat left on a tape posted through the victim’s letterbox, or a surveillance recording made secretly by the police within the home of someone planning a robbery.

The commonest scenario for a forensic phonetician is to compare the questioned voice in the criminal recording with a speech sample from the suspect, in order to assess if it belongs to the same person. There was the case of a New Yorker accused of making threatening calls to Pan Am airlines. Detailed phonetic transcripts which compared the caller with the accused suggested beyond reasonable doubt that the caller was in fact from Boston, resulting in the acquittal of the accused. It is now widely accepted that there is no constant feature of an individual’s voice. That is, there is no vocal equivalent of a fingerprint or a DNA profile, which can offer irrefutable proof of speaker identity.

Research in sociolinguistics and phonetics has shown that an individual’s speech may vary as a result of many factors, including social and regional background. Speech features may also vary from situation to situation: for example, as a result of stress or the effect of speaking on a telephone. Different voices may also be affected in different ways. For instance, most people, but not all, speak more loudly when using a telephone, which results in a rise in average fundamental frequency.

There are several methods of speaker identification. The first and oldest form of speaker identification is of course speaker identification by ear-witnesses. The second major category comprises all forms of speaker identification by experts. At present, experts working in the field of forensic speaker identification use one of three approaches: (i) a phonetic-acoustic approach, (ii) a (semi-)automatic, analytical acoustic approach which is frequently combined with an auditory phonetic analysis, and (iii) a global automatic approach. Also methods are employed in which elements of the three types are combined in various ways.

Procedures of speaker identification by witnesses for evidential purposes typically involve the use of voice line-ups, following existing practice of visual identification of persons by witnesses. This consists of a set of recorded voices, including that of the suspect. It is widely assumed that recall of familiar voices is straightforward or even automatic. However, while it is generally true that recall of familiar voices is better than that of unfamiliar ones, even close friends and family members can show a significant degree of inaccuracy or inability to recognize voices that are well known to them. It has also been demonstrated that memory of a voice tends to decay over time, so that it is imperative to begin constructing a line-up test as soon as possible after the witnessing of the event. In practice, though, there may be long delays as a result of failure to apprehend a suspect quickly. That’s why nowadays this method is mainly used to confirm an earlier identification, as there is a great chance of false identification, which may lead to the conviction of an innocent person.

The second and probably most frequently practiced form in the forensic context is speaker identification by experts. Basically, all forensic phoneticians can be divided into three groups. The first group consists of trained phoneticians. They rely primarily on a combination of auditory phonetic analysis and a variety of acoustic measurements, and will generally only consider themselves competent to analyze speech samples in their own native language. The second group consists of those who use a set of semi-automatic measurements of particular acoustic speech parameters, for example vowel formants, and sometimes combine it with the results of a detailed, largely auditory phonetic analysis. The third, most recent approach differs from the first two in that it is both automatic and global. It is automatic in the sense that any subjective analysis or evaluation of the speech material is reduced to a minimum; it is global in the sense that it does not address specific acoustic speech parameters but treats the signal as a physical phenomenon.


1. Read the text and answer the questions:


  1. What is SID? What does this method involve?
  2. How do you understand the term ‘criminal recording’?
  3. What factors can influence a person’s speech?
  4. What are the methods of speaker identification?
  5. What does the procedure of speaker identification by witnesses include?
  6. What problems can arise when a witness is asked to recall the suspect’s voice?
  7. How are all forensic phoneticians who work in the sphere of speaker identification subdivided?
  8. Who is a trained phonetician?
  9. What does the second group of phoneticians deal with?
  10. How does the third approach differ from the previous two?
  11. What is the main idea of the text?


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