Prosody and its application to forensic linguistics

Michael J. Harris, Stefan Th. Gries, Viola G. Miglio


This article describes three studies in prosody and their potential application to the field of forensic linguistics. It begins with a brief introduction to prosody. It then proceeds to describe Miglio, Gries, & Harris (2014), a comparison of prosodic coding of new information by bilingual Spanish-English speakers and monolingual Spanish speakers. A description of Harris & Gries (2011) follows. This study compares the vowel duration variability of bilingual Spanish-English speakers and monolingual Spanish speakers, and touches upon corpus-based frequency effects and differences in linguistic aptitude between the two speaker groups. Finally, a portion of anongoing study is described (Harris in preparation). This section describes the use of prosodic variables and ensemble methods (or methods that use multiple learning algorithms) to classify languages, even in the case of impoverished data. All three experiments have implications and applications to the field of forensic linguistics, which are touched upon in each respective section and discussed in a more in-depth manner in the final section of this article. Furthermore, the applications of these methods to forensic linguistics are discussed in light of best practices for forensic linguistics, as outlined in Chaski (2013).


Prosody, Speech Rhythms, Intonation, Information Structure

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