An interesting overview of forensic linguistics in the Washington Post. Excerpt:
In an episode of the CBS show “Criminal Minds” that aired last year , an FBI team is on a frantic hunt for a missing 4-year-old. The team soon realizes that the girl has been given away by a relative, Sue, and that there’s no way Sue is going to reveal her whereabouts.
A crucial break comes when FBI profiler Alex Blake puts her “word wisdom” to work. Blake, who is also a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, notices that Sue uses an unusual turn of phrase during an interview and in a written statement: “I put the light bug on.”
The FBI team launches an Internet search and soon discovers the same misuse of “light bug” for “light bulb” in an underground adoption forum: “I’ll switch the light bug off in the car so no one will see.”
Same author, right? On that assumption, the team springs into action and — bingo! — the missing child is found.
Inspiration for Blake’s expertise came from former FBI special agent and linguist James R. Fitzgerald, who became an adviser to “Criminal Minds” in 2008. Blake, he says, is a combination of him and his fiancee, Georgetown associate linguistics professor Natalie Schilling.
(Read the rest.)
Previously about forensic linguistics.