The use of textual, grammatical and sociolinguistic evidence in forensic text comparison:


  • M. Teresa Turell Universitat Pompeu Fabra



idiolectal style, authorship attribution, forensic linguistics, sociolinguistics, language contact, Spanish


This article suggests the usefulness of the concept of ‘idiolectal style’ in forensic text comparison and presents evidence that was used by the defence in a forensic authorship attribution case to show that the author of four non-disputed faxes could also be the author of four disputed emails, both sets written in Spanish. Apart from qualitative textual analysis, two different quantitative approaches were undertaken: a) the use of the concepts of markedness and saliency in order to establish the rarity in the frequency and use of two grammatical variables - by comparing their behaviour to the one observed in a general corpus - indicated in both data sets the favourite use of two variants - redundant yo and compound periphrastic relative pronoun el cual, and b) the statistical analysis of sequences of linguistic categories classified and grouped the texts in the two sets under analysis (and also a control text set from another real forensic case) very closely, showing their discriminatory potential, in particular when the sequences were bigrams, something which would lead to the conclusion that these two text sets were produced by the same author.

Author Biography

M. Teresa Turell, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

M. Teresa Turell is Professor of English Linguistics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain), director of ForensicLab and academic director of the Master’s programme in Forensic Linguistics (IDEC-IULA) in this same university. Results of her research on sociolinguistic variation, language contact and forensic linguistics have appeared in Language Variation and Change, Language in Society, Treballs de Sociolingüística Catalana and The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law. She is the author of No One-to-One in Grammar (1983) and Elements per a la Recerca Sociolingüística a Catalunya (1984) and the editor of collected works such as Nuevas Corrientes Lingüísticas (1990), La Sociolingüística de la Variació (1995), Multilingualism in Spain (2001), Lingüística Forense, Lengua y Derecho. Conceptos, Métodos y Aplicaciones (2005), Plurilingüismo en España (2007) and Dimensions of Forensic Linguistics (2008), co-edited with John Gibbons.



How to Cite

Turell, M. T. (2011). The use of textual, grammatical and sociolinguistic evidence in forensic text comparison:. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 17(2), 211–250.