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The Role of Linguistics in Veracity Evaluation


Although the issue of veracity of statements in forensic contexts arises from evidence given in language, an appreciable share of applied professional linguistics in the practical process of veracity evaluation hardly exists. The article aims to provide a survey of key theoretical and methodological issues in the field of veracity evaluation from the linguistic point of view – a currently popular field where fast results are expected and a lot of publicity is to be gained. The article starts out by looking at the very notion of “truth” and what can happen to it on the way from real-life experience to a verbal report. It then gives an overview of psychological and other approaches to verifying the truth or otherwise of verbal reports. These approaches variously include linguistic cues in their lists of diagnostic features. Dissatisfaction with and inconsistency of the results of psychological tests is partly due to a lack of professional sophistication in defining linguistic cues, as well as a disregard for the role of genres in determining normality expectations for the occurrence of linguistic cues. The paper argues for the inclusion of linguistic cues on a systematic basis, as well as for the further refinement and sophistication in the definition and application of linguistic categories in psychological tools of analysis.

Cite as: Nicklaus & Stein, JLL 9 (2020), 23–47, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2020.023


deception detection, veracity, truth, linguistics, genre, linguistic cues



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