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Wordcrime: Solving Crime Through Forensic Linguistics Paperback – April 12, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1441193520 ISBN-10: 1441193529 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; Reprint edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441193529
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441193520
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Anyone with the slightest interest in language will find this book fascinating.
(David Crystal is Honorary Professor at Bangor University, UK, and is a past Honorary President of the International Association of Forensic Phonetics.)

Wordcrime provides a fascinating insight into a rarely seen and still largely unknown science, and its many narratives describing how forensic linguistics is helping solve crime extend the book's appeal to a wider audience beyond law enforcement. The evidence is well presented and the explanations are easy to follow. The range of cases examined offer a real feel for the discipline's scope, application and usefulness as a crime detection technique. Investigators willing to understand and get to grips with the methods described in the book will find them extremely useful in their examination of suspected fraud involving documents, and any case where discovering the author of a particular document/email/text is an important part of its solution.

(Commercial Crime International)

John Olsson, 57, who lives in a secluded spot near Welshpool, Powys, is a world-leading expert in forensic linguistics.

When author Lew Perdue claimed Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code had been plagiarised from his own work Daughter of God, Mr Olsson was enlisted as an expert witness for the case.

Mr Olsson said: "I studied both books and found 74 points in common between them, 68 of which were in sequence. I also found a common mistake in both; a parchment was incorrectly called a vellum. I could not find any other example of this mistake.

"However I was blocked from giving evidence and the judge threw our case out, saying the similarities were purely generic."

However, he has had more success in dealing with serious criminal cases — he is one of only three experts in forensic linguistics in the UK whom police call upon for help.

His expertise is called upon when the authorship of a text message is in question.



Once upon a time, the only way to tell that a suicide note had been faked was by matching its faded e's and crooked g's to the keys on the murderer's typewriter. Not any more. You might think that these days you could just text 'goodbye cruel world' to everyone in your victim's phone book before chucking their mobile off the balcony after them — a perfect crime, so long as you didn't forget to wear your rubber gloves. Except that John Olsson, 'the world's only full-time forensic linguist', could well, even then, be able to bust you.
(London Review Of Books)

The name John Olsson may not be familiar to you, but his work as a forensic linguist has been crucial in putting murderers behind bars.
(Luton and Dunstable Express)

Olsson is an engaging storyteller
(Literary Review)

What emerges most strikingly in this book is the creative aspect of language and the broad nature of the field of linguistics.

(Times Literary Supplement)

[Olsson provides] a quite readable and indeed insightful glimpse into the technical practicalities of the duties and tasks of a foreign linguist. (Springer (Int J Semiot Law))

Anyone with the slightest interest in language will find this book fascinating.
(Sanford Lakoff)

Wordcrime provides a fascinating insight into a rarely seen and still largely unknown science, and its many narratives describing how forensic linguistics is helping solve crime extend the book's appeal to a wider audience beyond law enforcement. The evidence is well presented and the explanations are easy to follow. The range of cases examined offer a real feel for the discipline's scope, application and usefulness as a crime detection technique. Investigators willing to understand and get to grips with the methods described in the book will find them extremely useful in their examination of suspected fraud involving documents, and any case where discovering the author of a particular document/email/text is an important part of its solution.

(Sanford Lakoff)

John Olsson, 57, who lives in a secluded spot near Welshpool, Powys, is a world-leading expert in forensic linguistics.

When author Lew Perdue claimed Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code had been plagiarised from his own work Daughter of God, Mr Olsson was enlisted as an expert witness for the case.

Mr Olsson said: “I studied both books and found 74 points in common between them, 68 of which were in sequence. I also found a common mistake in both; a parchment was incorrectly called a vellum. I could not find any other example of this mistake.

“However I was blocked from giving evidence and the judge threw our case out, saying the similarities were purely generic.”

However, he has had more success in dealing with serious criminal cases – he is one of only three experts in forensic linguistics in the UK whom police call upon for help.

His expertise is called upon when the authorship of a text message is in question.

(Sanford Lakoff)

Once upon a time, the only way to tell that a suicide note had been faked was by matching its faded e’s and crooked g’s to the keys on the murderer’s typewriter. Not any more. You might think that these days you could just text 'goodbye cruel world’ to everyone in your victim’s phone book before chucking their mobile off the balcony after them – a perfect crime, so long as you didn’t forget to wear your rubber gloves. Except that John Olsson, 'the world’s only full-time forensic linguist’, could well, even then, be able to bust you.
(Sanford Lakoff)

The name John Olsson may not be familiar to you, but his work as a forensic linguist has been crucial in putting murderers behind bars.
(Sanford Lakoff)

Olsson is an engaging storyteller
(Sanford Lakoff Literary Review)

What emerges most strikingly in this book is the creative aspect of language and the broad nature of the field of linguistics.

(Sanford Lakoff)

About the Author

Since 1996, John Olsson has operated a world-renowned forensic linguistics consultancy and training service at www.thetext.co.uk. He is an Adjunct Professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, USA, where he teaches forensic linguistics online. He is also Visiting Professor of Forensic Linguistics at the International University of Novi Pazar in Serbia where he runs an annual summer school in Forensic Linguistics, and is a board member of the Language and Law Centre at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, where he is also a visiting Professor.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Good stuff, and takes more than one sitting to read.
Anna
Still I give the book five stars because provocative ideas--even wrong ones--really stimulate and on balance the book is unique and very interesting.
C R
If you are at all interested in forensic linguistics, this is the book for you.
Beth Yoder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lewis Perdue on June 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fans of CSI, true crime books and mysteries looking for new plots and unique ways of solving crimes will find Wordcrime a deep and rewarding trove of reading.

Internationally renowned forensic linguist John Olsson has created a work that is both highly readable and factually rigorous. This book simultaneously entertains and educates -- a nearly impossible feat in both fact and fiction.

Indeed, some of the true-crimes have details that would have been unbelievable had they been written as fiction.

Written in bite-sized chapters, Wordcrime takes a "from the files of ..." approach as Olsson explains the origins of some of the hundreds f cases he has worked on. Olsson leads us through the genesis of each crime, the methods he used to sleuth his way to the guilty party, and the resolution.

Olsson devotes a small part of each chapter to explain some facet of forensic linguistics -- brief enough to be entertaining and long enough to impart a substantial degree of understanding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John M. Ford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
John Olsson is one of the world's top forensic linguists. He has testified in more than 500 court cases, published numerous research studies, and co-authored (with June Luchjenbroers) one of the field's leading textbooks, Forensic Linguistics. In this book he teaches readers about forensic linguistics using the case study method.

Each of the twenty-three chapters describes a case the author has contributed to as a forensic linguist. He has selected each one to illustrate particular aspects of his work. "My aim is not primarily to tell a good story, but to illustrate how interesting and complex language is, and how powerful a resource it can be when it enters the arena of the law." All of the cases are worth reading. These three are reasonably representative:

Chapter 4, "Is The Da Vinci Code a Plagiarism?" examines an accusation that Dan Brown "borrowed without permission" major plot elements of his bestseller from another writer's book. Olsson addresses this question by examining the order in which the plot elements occur in each book. He also looks at instances where both authors made the same unusual or erroneous word choices. Olsson reports the legal outcome and invites readers to form their own conclusions.

In Chapter 8, "Murder or Suicide," Olsson is hired by the family of a young man who has apparently committed suicide and left a suicide note for his family. Suspicious circumstances lead his family suspect the man was murdered and the note forged by the killer.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What does the way you speak or write reveal about you that you aren't aware of? How can your use of language be argued to show that you wrote the anonymous malicious letter? that you plagiarized the plot to the Da Vinci Code? or that you murdered your spouse and forged the "suicide" note?

How to solve crimes and other mysteries by looking at the way people use language is what this book of 23 chapters is about. Each one contains a unique story that depicts how use of language can leave clues that most people do not recognize.

The author explains that forensic linguistics is a relatively new field--the term first having been used in 1968 and only entering general usage in 1994. What he does not say, and what I highly suspect, is that the jury is still out on whether forensic linguistics can accomplish what it claims.

Although the author loves what he does and is an advocate for the general acceptance of the field, not every chapter casts forensic linguistics in a positive light. One case, the "Prosecutor Memo", argued as a "significant ruling for forensic linguistics" resulted in a real travesty of justice in my opinion. It revealed a serious misunderstanding in the way prosecutors use language. Am I really supposed to believe that a policeman would take the chance of ruining his or her entire career just to get a garden variety DWI conviction? I don't think so. Neither the police nor most prosecutors are that fragile or sensitive.

Still I give the book five stars because provocative ideas--even wrong ones--really stimulate and on balance the book is unique and very interesting. I am fascinated by the proposition that clues can be found in language use and I loved reading the stories--each one a different kind of "who dunn it?"

Hmmm. I wonder what clues I leave behind about me hidden away in this review? :)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anna on August 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you like language, this book is interesting. If you're only looking for crime-based entertainment, this is not for you. Some other books on the topic use sensational headline crime stories to pique interest. This book is actually about linguistics. Good stuff, and takes more than one sitting to read.
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By catherine a. feeney on August 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
British pedant whose writing style is labored and awkward.
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