Forensic linguistics is – as the name implies – a sub-discipline of linguistics. Usually it is considered to be a part of applied linguistics. It is related to, though at the same time independent from, the sub-discipline of language and law. Forensic linguistics interacts with areas such as criminology, psychology, philosophy, law, police work, language acquisition, discourse analysis and social sciences.
Forensic linguistics is the application of linguistic knowledge to criminal cases, police work and interactions in the courtroom. When language meets criminal cases, this is the realm of forensic linguistics. Language and law usually focusses on the linguistics within law, so for example of statutes and laws and their interpretation and application. Both disciplines are concerned with the creation of evidence and its admissibility in court. The disciplines share research areas, but differ in their applications.
Forensic linguistics is concerned with the analysis of written and spoken material. Written material can be hand-written, typed or drawn. In the age of mass media and new technologies, the numbers of typed materials are rising. Cases that involve written data are varied. Forensic linguistics could be looking at authorship, suicide notes, threatening or extortion letters, analysing the origin of the writer/speaker, analysis of disputed e-mails, contracts, interviews and so on. Forensic phonetics is probably one of the well-known applications of forensic linguistics, even though researchers tend to separate linguistics and phonetics.
All areas that are connected to forensic linguistics need to deal with the issue of evidence, even though some cases are more concerned with helping the investigations than with the creation of materials for the court.
Besides all theoretical and practical consequences, it is very important to keep in mind the linguistic ‘behaviour’ and work ethics within forensic linguistics. Anyone can name themselves a “forensic linguist”, as the term is not protected. Therefore, it is even more important for linguists to work with certain (ethic) basics, like a code of practice. This concerns questions like creation and presentation of evidence, money or who am I writing a report for. This is also highly relevant for countries in which forensics linguistics is not as established as in the UK, the US or Spain.