Forensic Stylistics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Analytical models and frameworks in stylistics have proved very serviceable in analyses of literary texts, but the scope of their disciplinary application is far-reaching. Stylistic methodologies have, in fact, much to offer in high-stakes discourse domains. One such domain is the forensic or judicial environment. Forensic stylistics is an exciting (and growing) discipline that uses the analytical frameworks and approaches from within stylistics for such work as authorship analysis, discourse presentation, conversation analysis (e.g. investigative interviews), analysis of blame and blaming strategies, framing and attitudinal positioning in witness statements, evidentiality, and much more. This chapter outlines the current state of play within forensic stylistics including its application in forensic practice and to what ends. In the analytical section, the chapter examines police-authored witness statements following the Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster (1989) in which ninety-seven Liverpool fans were killed in a crush at the ground. It employs a stylistic toolkit to uncover attitudinal and institutional biases and abuses of power in the ways that police officers selectively reported events in the evidence-gathering process during their investigations after the disaster. It also delineates stylistic patterns across nine officers’ witness statements that amount to institutional collusion. The chapter concludes by advocating for the utility of stylistics as a nuanced and practical methodological approach to forensic text analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Stylistics. Second Edition
EditorsMichael Burke
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780367568887
ISBN (Print)9780367567491
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2023

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