[Colloquium] Forensic Linguistics and the Ethical Role of the Linguist

For over fifty years, linguists have served as consultants and expert witnesses in courts in Britain and the United States. This presentation focuses on several state and federal court cases in which linguistic expertise was called on to resolve disputes involving defamation, trademark, and contract and constitutional interpretation. As an introduction, the presentation briefly sketches the history and current scope of forensic linguistics, with notes about the needed skill set in a linguistics expert’s toolkit. Codes of professional practice are described and practical insights offered into the pros and cons of expert witnessing. An argument is made for social and ethical responsibility in accepting requests for forensic engagements.