LALIGI Forensic Linguistics Laboratory - Laboratorio di Linguistica Giudiziaria Linguistics Department of the University of Florence

Forensic Linguistics Laboratory - Laboratorio di Linguistica Giudiziaria

Linguistics Department of the University of Florence

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Forensic Linguistics Laboratory - LALIGI
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Research Focuses and Objectives

The research, centered on Italian forensic linguistics (linguistica giudiziaria italiana), was founded in 1992. Since then, this field of study has held a constant and privileged position in the scientific activity of professor Patrizia Bellucci, in particular for the evident relevance of the themes confronted in both the field of linguistic analysis [special uses of language, asymmetrical interactions, non-literary texts, etc.] and in the linguistic training and the continuing linguistic education of various professions in diverse sectors. Throughout the years, her collaboration with current students and ex-students, as well as with her Florentine colleagues (see List of Participants), has progressively increased. The research also seems to fill a gap in Italian linguistics which, apart from a few brilliant exceptions, has remained behind the rest of the linguistic world with respect to Forensic Linguistics, much more practiced and firmly rooted in the international realm. While the standpoint of the work is evidently linguistic, the objectives which accompany the group are also institutional and social, held up by the strong conviction that the democratic institutions of the government and the widespread need for legality must be sustained by expert substantiation.

The research, which focuses primarily on the operation of the Justice System beginning with the criminal trial, takes into consideration aspects and problems of a linguistic nature, often with strong applicative consequences (which can sometimes be of great importance in the legal world). The exploration has required the synergy of diverse methodological viewpoints: from dialectology to variationist sociolinguistics to conversational analysis to ethnography of communication, etc. All of the research falls under the "interpretive" or "interactionist" perspective.

The research is set out in various directions:

1) The preliminary investigation phase, with particular attention to wiretaps and bugs in the strict sense [note] (that which is obtained through the insertion of electronic listening devices in the private residences of the suspects) and to the various and complex transcribing duties (of bugs and wiretaps, of summary information, of spontaneous declarations, of interrogations, of information, of hearings, etc.), including the consequences of their use in the penal process.

2) The carrying out of criminal proceedings (from the first level to the Court of Cassation), as analyzed from the trial [seen as an ritualized and codified linguistic event typically of asymmetrical oral interaction] to the Court Ruling and the Appeals process. The analyses focus on "typical" trials as well as trials for organized crime, mass murders, etc..

3) Legal interaction with sociolinguistically and socioculturally disadvantaged persons: lower-class citizens, immigrants, women, minors, psychologically disturbed persons, etc. This area of the research is bent on individuating problems of interaction of a linguistic nature and any possible stereotypes evident in the interaction.

4) Forensic dialectology: dialectology from inside the penal process.

5) The transcribing of the spoken word during the trial conversion.

6) Civil trials, taking into consideration the pervasiveness of their impact on the public.

7) The written language of the operators of the law and the wording of court orders.

8) Word processing in legal situations.

9) Legal language in diachrony. As in all areas of the Italian language, diachronic analysis is fundamental for the understanding of present-day sociolinguistic dynamics. From a historical perspective, overlap and interferences between judicial language and juridical language must be considered, a facet that tends to orientate this area of the research in a particular way.

10) Radio and television transmission of legal proceedings and the representation of the Justice System by the mass media, the research examines the linguistic mediation of journalists and the linguistic characteristics of the various media 'containers' (oral and written), both in relation to the representation of the Justice System in the general mass media and, more regularly, in law reports. Included are fiction dramas, talk shows, and other televised transmissions, as well as film and cinematographic productions. The analysis is also orientated towards the training and the continuing education of media Operators such as journalists, news anchors, etc.

11) Public communication (written, broadcast, and computerized) of state institutions responsible for the implementation of the justice system and crime prevention.

12) The linguistic training and the continuing linguistic education of the appropriate members of the legal system: the mapping of indispensable linguistic competencies, to be introduced homogeneously in the professional training and continuing education of: the operators of the law (Judges and Lawyers, who, even in mass opinion, are considered to be "professionals of the word" by antonomasia, yet who, in reality, have no formalized or institutionalized linguistic education), investigative police, court reporters, etc..

13) The continuing education of teachers, with the aim of providing them the ability to educate their students: a) in democratic legality from a linguistic standpoint; b) in the analysis of non-literary texts, asymmetrical interactions, variations of the linguistic repertoire, and special uses of language in juridical and judicial contexts. At present, students are rarely taught how to read and interpret laws or to understand the legal institution in its mechanisms and its implementation, despite the Justice System being an important part of the public and democratic life of the Country in which all citizens are called to actively and responsibly participate. Instead, students ("citizens in training") are often completely deprived of the instruments and the critical-thinking skills necessary to evaluate autonomously the information that is readily transmitted to them, for example, by mass media. To summarize, it is a matter of offering students the linguistic instruments indispensable for the realization of their status as "citizen", with the goal of "functional literacy" as is required more and more by the ever-increasing complexity of society.

14) The linguistic revision and the simplification of public communication and institutional texts (in connection with the numerous experts and scholars that have been working in this area for many years).

15) Notification and review of pertinent events and publications.



At present, the vast thematic area regarding the identification of the Speaker, be it that of the variationist type (see, for example, the studies of John Trumper and his students), be it that based on the recognition of "vocal imprints" through experimental phonetics, has been excluded from the research due to the notable wealth of interest which that area currently enjoys in Italy in such research organizations as the Experimental Phonetics Group (G.F.S.), presently the Italian Associazione for the Study of the Voice (Associazione Italiana per lo Studio della Voce - AISV), and in various Centers with specialized sound Archives.

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