Upcoming (Postponed)

April 2020 (To be announced)

Netflix and Change?: Forensic linguistics and false confessions in the age of "true crime"

Tammy Gales (Hofstra University)

Time: 11 am
Venue: Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007

This talk will highlight the cultural role played by popular television shows that have affected the applied academic work we do as forensic linguists. In this talk, I will first introduce the "CSI Effect" (i.e., the knowledge "learned" by the lay public about forensic science methods and data through popular television programs such as "CSI" and "Law and Order") and then outline how this effect has influenced juries’ expectations of and conclusions about evidence in criminal cases (Thomas 2006; Huey 2010). Second, we will explore the actual scientific linguistic concepts used by forensic linguists (e.g., sociolinguistic variation (e.g., Schilling 2006) and register variation (e.g., Biber et al. 1999)), especially as they relate to the social justice issue of false confessions. We will then examine the linguistic evidence in a recent false confession case that we analyzed as part of the Hofstra University Capital Case Innocence Project, wherein the claim was that the suspect’s disputed confession statement had been memorialized in writing by the interrogator as his "verbatim" language. Finally, we will briefly revisit the notion of the "CSI Effect" in light of some of the new "true crime" series produced, in great part by Netflix, that may be starting to educate the general public about the pervasive problem of false confessions within our criminal justice systems.


  • This is a different room from last semester!
  • All attendees will be asked to show some form of ID in order to enter the college.
  • Attendees are invited to join the speaker for lunch at a nearby restaurant afterward (at their own expense).
  • There will be a meeting of the ILA's Executive Board from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the same day (N499).
  • Monthly Lectures 2019-2020

    Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
    Oct 5, 2019 Cordless or cordfree? What's the difference? Mark Aronoff (Stony Brook University)
    Nov 2, 2019 White Settler Colonialism, Integration and Language Eve Haque (York University, City University of New York)
    Dec 7, 2019 Integrating the History of Spanish and the History of New York: On the Political Nature of Linguistic Research José del Valle (CUNY Graduate Center)
    Feb 1, 2020 Foreign Loanwords and Pronunciation Choices in American English: Place Names and Other Proper Nouns Mary Sepp (Borough of Manhattan Community College)
    Mar 7, 2020 Too Modern or Not Enough? Asian Figures of Linguistic Modernity Angela Reyes (CUNY Hunter College)
    Apr 4, 2020 Netflix and Change?: Forensic linguistics and false confessions in the age of "true crime" Tammy Gales (Hofstra University)