Towards a Framework for Communication Evidence


  • John Gibbons University of Western Sydney and Monash University



forensic linguistics, communication evidence, language evidence, theory, analytic model


This article attempts to construct a mid-level theoretical overview of communication evidence (sometimes referred to as ‘forensic linguistics’), using decision trees as a theoretical framework. It suggests that there are three main issues – the nature of the sample, the type of evidence and the analysis used. The types of evidence are categorised into language crimes, tradenames, meaning transfer and author attribution, and examples and discussion are given for each. They are further subcategorised, and distinguishing features and characteristics are discussed. It is suggested that the type of analysis used to provide linguistic evidence needs to take into account simultaneously the method of analysis and the communication systems involved. Communication systems in turn are categorised according to ‘levels’ and variable features. This article is regarded as programmatic rather than conclusive – it is intended to stir debate, rather than be seen as a firm statement.

Author Biography

John Gibbons, University of Western Sydney and Monash University

John Gibbons is an Adjunct Professor at Monash University and at the University of Western Sydney. He is author of Forensic Linguistics: An Introduction to Language in the Justice System Blackwell, editor of Language and the Law Longman, and co-editor of Language in the Law Orient Longman, and Dimensions of Forensic Linguistics Benjamins.



How to Cite

Gibbons, J. (2011). Towards a Framework for Communication Evidence. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 18(2), 233–260.