That’s a line out of Manhunt: Unabomber, the gripping new(ish) TV series about how a notorious serial killer was tracked down and apprehended, largely thanks to the relatively young science known as “forensic linguistics.” If you want to know what forensic linguistics is all about, watch this series. (And read Glossophilia’s earlier post about another famous crime in which this particular form of detective work played an important role.) For a quick taster of the series, and to see how linguistics came into the crime in question, watch the video clip below to discover how a common proverb was the key to cracking the case of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Which proverb was it, and how did its history help the FBI to solve the case? Continue reading
What exactly is — or are — “forensic linguistics”? It’s the application of linguistic knowledge, methods and insights to the forensic context of law, language, crime investigation, trial, and judicial procedure. Here’s an example of it.
Retired FBI agent James Fitzgerald is one of the U.S.’s most prominent forensic linguists: as well as advising on some of TV’s popular fictional crime and forensics shows, he was on the investigative teams of two high-profile criminal cases of the last couple of decades: the Unabomber, and the murder of JonBenét Ramsey in 1996. The Ramsey case was recently back in the news, with a new TV documentary detailing a new, independent investigation of that 20-year-old crime. As part of the new investigative team, Fitzgerald returned to the scene of the crime to analyze in detail the notorious ransom note that became such a mysterious and vital part of the unsolved homicide. He talked to Yahoo TV about the significance of that 370-word document, and the various things it revealed about the person who wrote it. Here are a couple of excerpts from that interview: Continue reading