Prize for best article

I am pleased and honoured to have been awarded the 2019 Rodney Huddleston prize for best article of 2018 in the Australian Journal of Linguistics for my paper Forensic Transcription: How Confident False Beliefs about Language and Speech Threaten the Right to a Fair Trial in Australia.

Read the abstract below or the full paper (for free) at 2019 T&F Huddleston Award Winning Article by Helen Fraser.

In good company

I’m delighted to be in the excellent company of Alyssa (Allie) Severin, who won the inaugural RH prize last year for her excellent paper Vigilance or Tolerance? Younger Speakers’ Attitudes to Australian English Usage.

Wondering who Rodney Huddleston is?

He is a famous linguist, originally from the UK but in Australia for many decades and now Emeritus Professor at the University of Queensland — who also happened to be the first editor of the Australian Journal of Linguistics, way back in 1981.


Thanks to my colleagues in the Australian Linguistics Society for this generous recognition — and for all the many good things they do for linguistics in Australia and around the world. Thanks also to the journal’s publishers, Taylor and Francis for the cash prize and especially to the journal editors and board for their hard work in keeping the journal going year after year. All very much appreciated!

Helen Fraser (2018) Forensic Transcription: How Confident False Beliefs about Language and Speech Threaten the Right to a Fair Trial in Australia, Australian Journal of Linguistics, 38:4, 586-606, DOI: 10.1080/07268602.2018.1510760

Everyday knowledge about language and speech, or ‘folk linguistics’, incorporates a number of false beliefs that have a negative effect in a range of areas, nowhere more so than in the criminal justice system. One lesser known area where false beliefs have a major impact is forensic transcription (interpretation of indistinct covert recordings used as evidence in criminal trials). Without consultation of the linguistic sciences, the law has developed processes that allow police transcripts to ‘assist’ the courts in making out unintelligible covert recordings. The present article uses a case study of a real murder trial to bring the actual and potential injustice this creates to the attention of linguistic science, and examine the issues from a linguistics perspective. Having laid out the problem, it goes on to consider potential solutions, arguing that creating a better process requires deep collaboration between linguistics, law and law enforcement. From linguists, it requires improved theoretical understanding of the nature and structure of the false beliefs that underlie the existing legal processes, as well as development of a more general theoretical account of the process of transcription and the nature of transcripts.

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