Here’s a new Research Briefing commissioned by the UK Parliament, bringing a welcome note of caution to the use of Forensic Linguistics and Phonetics evidence across a range of disciplines.
17 March 2015
Listen to these two snippets of muttered self-talk, then read on to see how a transcript can prime journalists’ perception.
If you are among the few who have not already heard the media’s interpretation of this audio, you’ll find it useful if you write down what you hear now, before reading on – and if you have a moment, I would love to be told your perception – you can send a message here.
16 May 2014
Social media claims Christopher Pyne dropped the ‘C’ word in parliament on Wednesday, but he says the word was ‘grub’. (SMH)
Huge interest the last day or two here in Oz as to whether Christopher Pyne, a right-wing politician, swore at a fellow politician in parliament.
10 April 2014
With so many responding to media invitations to form subjective opinions as to whether Oscar Pistorius’ emotion is genuine, are we missing factual errors in the reporting of what he is actually saying? Could scientific analysis help here?
23 June 2013
The Zimmerman ruling
A ruling has been handed down on the voice evidence in the Zimmerman case we have been following. Judge Debra S Nelson gave high praise for Prof Peter French’s evidence (in her words, ‘The Court found the testimony of Dr. French to be the most compelling of the witnesses presented.‘). That is an important endorsement for the role of genuine expertise in relevant branches of phonetics in the legal system.
12 June 2013
An ongoing murder case in Florida, USA is discussing the vexed issue of whether it is possible to identify a speaker from a tiny, barely intelligible ‘grab’ of poor quality audio. One of the issues is the extent to which speaker comparison depends on prior decisions about what is being said (i.e. forensic transcription). The USA is very open about their court proceedings, so we are able to follow along with the debate. In this post you can hear the audio, and then (preferably in that order) read about case and listen to the expert testimony.
3 April 2013
The New South Wales Law Reform Commission has just released its Report 136 on Jury Directions. Although not explicitly mentioned in its terms of reference, the report takes the opportunity in Section 6.5 (pages 123ff) to reinforce the current practices regarding presentation of hard-to-hear covert recordings. That is rather disappointing in view of the significant problems with this area of the law that have been pointed out by phonetic science.
The PACT experiments represent a more commonplace – and more disturbing – problem with the treatment of forensic transcription than the crisis call experiment. Again they use audio from a real murder trial. If you have read the case study, you’ll recognise this story. Here we go into a bit more detail on the experimental results than in the case study itself.
Here’s an experiment shows the dangers of leaving the task of evaluating the transcript of a ‘disputed utterance’ to the jury.
Early one morning, a young man returned home from his paper round. About twenty minutes later, he made a crisis call (emergency call) reporting his entire family were lying dead in the house.
Priming, in relation to speech, is the tendency of the human ear to hear words that have been suggested, either explicitly or by context – even though there may little or no acoustic evidence for those words.