Expert linguists and the whole truth


  • Edward Finegan University of Southern California



Whole truth ethics


The adversarial nature of legal proceedings presents challenges for a linguist whose scholarly research and expert opinion typically have asymmetrical resources and constraints. This presentation focuses on a linguist’s ethical obligations as a forensic consultant, in initial contacts with attorneys, in drafting an expert report or declaration, and in deposition testimony and trial testimony. It asks in particular whether “the whole truth” remains a consistent ethical requirement across all legal and forensic linguistic contexts. It also examines possible ethical vulnerabilities of an expert operating with a set of facts initially framed by an advocate representing only one side of a dispute in contrast to the facts and framing possible to an independent scholarly investigator. The advantages for litigants, linguists, and triers of fact of having opposing experts will also be considered.

Author Biography

Edward Finegan, University of Southern California

Edward Finegan is Professor of linguistics and law at the University ofSouthern California, USA.



How to Cite

Finegan, E. (2010). Expert linguists and the whole truth. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 16(2), 267–277.