What do problems of forensic transcription reveal about theory and practice of transcription in linguistics?
Departmental seminar – video below (43min; 70mB)
Recent research (e.g. Fraser, 2018) has revealed serious problems in the way transcripts are used to assist in the interpretation of indistinct covert recordings admitted as evidence in criminal trials (see forensictranscription.com.au). It is clear that linguists need to be involved in solving these problems, as shown by the recent Call to Action from ALS and ALAA to the Australian judiciary (see forensictranscription.com.au/news). But exactly what advice should we give? Transcripts of different kinds are used in nearly all branches of linguistic research, with practices varying widely from one context to another (Fraser, 2014). Which kind of transcript is most appropriate to the forensic context? Answering this and other relevant questions requires giving more explicit attention to theoretical concepts. What is a transcript? How can we be sure a transcript gives a reliable representation of the contents of a recording? Why did the legal system get it so wrong?