Accessibility statement

Forensic phonetics



This course provides an introduction to the practical, ethical, and legal principles of forensic speech analysis in criminal investigations. Through auditory and instrumental analysis, we will investigate the phonetic parameters which can be useful in the process of identifying an individual speaker. We will discuss and replicate phonetic analysis which has been performed in criminal cases. We will also explore the performance of lay listeners in speaker identification, discussing the problems involved in eliciting and using 'earwitness' evidence in court.

Knowledge outcomes

  • Students will gain a thorough understanding of the theoretical and methodological issues which underpin analysis of speech involved in criminal settings
  • Students will develop an understanding of the problems involved in performing suitable analysis where the available materials are difficult and/or sensitive

Value outcomes

  • Students will develop experience of the practical problems involved in analysis of difficult and sensitive materials
  • Students will learn to appreciate the ethical issues involved in collecting and analysing criminal data, and in presenting the results to a non-specialist audience

Behavioural outcomes

Students will become proficient at and develop competence in the following skills:

  • Analysing data using qualitative, quantitative and statistical methods
  • Graphic and statistical presentation of data
  • Writing professional reports, using standard types of argumentation

This module will be capped at 35.



Students must have successfully completed:

  • L09I Intermediate phonetics and phonology (LAN00009I)


  • L10I Intermediate language variation and change (LAN00010I)



Contact hours

Three to four hours per week consisting of one lecture and one laboratory practical (max 2hrs per session).

Teaching programme

In addition to the lecture and lab, private study should include completion of all practical exercises covered in laboratory sessions, and reading of all key texts. Students are also expected to seek individual advice on their work for assessment during the tutors' surgery hours.

Teaching materials

A pack of reading materials will be made available.

Suggestions for reading before the module starts

  • Nolan, F. (2001) Speaker identification evidence: its forms, limitations, and roles. Proceedings of the conference 'Law and Language: Prospect and Retrospect', Levi, Finland.
  • Eriksson, A. (2005) Forensic Phonetics. Paper presented at tutorial session on Forensic Speech Science, Interspeech (9th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology), Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Jessen, M. (2008) Forensic phonetics. Language & Linguistics Compass 2(4): 671-711. [available via the University library's e-journals collection]‌

Assessment and feedback


Assessment and feedback

Feedback on formative work

  • Weekly lab sessions
    • Oral advice and feedback on work to individuals and whole group
  • Laboratory report
    • 1000 words
    • Written feedback within one week

Summative assessment and feedback

  • Laboratory report
    1,500 words
    • Weight: 30%
    • Feedback: written feedback in week 1 of Spring term
  • Timed practical exam
    Exam duration will be two hours
    • Weight: 70%
    • Feedback: to be given after marks released (by the end of week 6 in the spring term) and the chance for students to see their own papers



Transferable skills developed in this module

All modules provide an opportunity to work on general oral/written communication skills (in class and in assessments) and general self management (organising your studies), alongside the specific skills in language or linguistics that the module teaches.

In addition, this module will allow you to particularly develop skills in the application of subject-specific knowledge in the workplace. Here you will learn how sociophonetic analysis is presented in a legal context. You will learn to present an analysis so that it meets the protocols of professional bodies, and is comprehensible to non-linguists as well as fellow linguists. The skill of framing the presentation to address the needs of different audience of will transfer to almost all professional situations. You will also learn to appreciate issues concerning the handling of sensitive and confidential materials.

Follow this link to hear how past students use transferable skills from their degree in their current jobs.

About this module

  • Module name
    Forensic phonetics
  • Course code
    E/L05H (LAN00005H)
  • Teachers 
    Paul Foulkes
  • Term(s) taught
  • Autumn
  • Credits