Sociolinguistic principles and issues of expertise in the LADO process

Prof. Peter Patrick (University of Essex, UK)

Individuals with varying types of language expertise – linguists with academic credentials, interpreters with different levels of qualification, native speakers with few or no academic qualifications – are increasingly involved, in different configurations, in the determination of national, regional or ethnic origins of refugees as part of the asylum process (Eades 2005). There has been considerable controversy over the role, if any, that language experts and linguistic expertise should play in this process, and each host nation differs in its practices. Attempts to draw up a minimum set of standards (Language and National Origin Group, 2004), though widely endorsed by linguists, are still preliminary and have been contested in proceedings.

This talk considers related issues and developments, drawing comparisons to common practice in the closely related field of forensic linguistics as practiced in courtrooms. Though important similarities characterize the two contexts, I argue that instead of the Axiom of the Idiolect (which frequently informs argumentation and evidence presentation in forensic linguistics, where the unique identity of a speaker or text is at issue), in LADO the crucial principle is the Axiom of the Speech Community (Patrick 2002). The research base of Speech Community studies is summarized and compared to the research base used until now in LADO. Conclusions are drawn concerning the nature of expertise that is recommended for LADO practitioners.


Eades, Diana. 2005. Applied Linguistics and language analysis in asylum seeker cases. Applied Linguistics 26(4): 503-526.

Language and National Origin Group. 2004. Guidelines for the use of language analysis in relation to questions of national origin in refugee cases. In Diana Eades & Jacques Arends, eds., Language Analysis and Determination of Nationality. International Journal of Speech, Language & the Law: Forensic Linguistics, 11(2): 179-266.

Patrick, Peter L. 2002. The speech community. In JK Chambers, Peter Trudgill & Natalie Schilling-Estes, eds. The Handbook of Language Variation & Change. 573-597. Oxford: Blackwell.

Letzte Änderung 24.11.2009

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