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Forensic Linguistics

Written by Emily Chiang

Forensic Linguistics

Online child sexual abuse remains pervasive around the world, despite the various combative measures employed by police, legislators and educators. One of the biggest barriers to policing this kind of crime is the anonymity afforded online; not only can offenders conceal aspects of their identities when communicating with victims or other offenders, but they can also assume new ones. So when it comes to identifying offenders, what clues can we draw on? What is left when the offline features we might use to interpret a person’s identity (physical appearance, dress, accent, etc.) are absent, or obscured? Language. Language is one source (a particularly rich and flexible source) that we use to express aspects of our identities. Which is why forensic linguists can offer insights and assist in police investigations regarding issues of online identity.

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