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Date: Nov 22, 2010
Hofstra Announces M.A. Specializing in Forensic Linguistics – The First Graduate Program of Its Kind in the U.S.
Forensic Linguistics is a Growing Field, Examining Language as It Pertains to the Law and Law EnforcementHofstra University, Hempstead, NY … Hofstra has launched a new M.A. degree in Linguistics with specialization in the emerging science of forensic linguistics – the first program of its kind in the United States. The study of forensic linguistics – the examination of language and the law – is increasingly being used as a tool of legal professionals, law enforcement, and the intelligence community. The first students in the Hofstra program began their studies this fall 2010 semester.
The only other forensic linguistics programs are in the U.K. and Spain. Linguistics is the systematic, scientific study of language. “Forensic linguistics” refers to linguistics applied to any use of language with legal relevance. The Masters in Linguistics: Forensic Linguistics is designed to meet a growing demand for advanced training in scientific language analysis. The program instructs students in the science of linguistics, and trains them in practical applications of linguistic theory to analytical problems, specifically in the legal arena. In addition to teaching the core linguistic tools of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, dialectology and discourse analysis, the program includes specific training in the practical application of these tools to legal investigations, trials, analysis of contracts, statutes, etc. Thus, the program teaches linguistics, and whenever possible, the language data used for instruction are forensic.
Dr. Robert A. Leonard, the program director, is a longtime professor at Hofstra, internationally recognized as a foremost expert in this field of study. He has worked as a consultant for the FBI, training agents in the use of forensic linguistics in law enforcement, threat assessment and counter-terrorism. Other clients have included The New Yorker magazine, ABC-TV's Investigative Unit, PA State Police, NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, NJ Attorney General, US Attorney’s Office in NY, and law firms that specialize in both civil and criminal cases. In addition to being a leading expert in forensic linguistics, Dr. Leonard has also received much attention for having been a rock star in the 60s and 70s as the founding leader of the group Sha Na Na. As vocalist, he and his group opened for Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Rock 'n' roll ignited his interest in forensic linguistics: analyzing the group's recording contract he proved they were not receiving money due them. Dr. Leonard left the music business for a Fulbright Fellowship and a Ph.D. from Columbia.
Dr. Leonard’s expertise in forensic linguistics has led to his involvement in many high profile cases, including the Taye Diggs-Idina Menzel arson threat letters, the Hummert murder, the McGuire “suitcase” murder, the Alvarez spy case, the doctored tape case involving the Canadian Prime Minister, and the John Karr episode of the JonBenet Ramsey murder (in which Dr. Leonard’s analysis of the ransom note and Karr’s writing found no link, prior to the release of DNA results which came to the same conclusion).
Adviser to the program is Dr. Leonard’s colleague and research partner, Dr. Roger W. Shuy, Distinguished Research Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, of Georgetown University. Known as the foremost forensic linguist in the United States, he has consulted on some 550 cases, testified as a linguistics expert witness in 26 states and before the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives in impeachment trials of U.S. senators and federal judges ,and in international criminal tribunal trials. Dr. Shuy has written or edited some 35 books on linguistics, including writing eight books on forensic linguistics.
Dr. Leonard has recruited as faculty James R. Fitzgerald, former FBI chief of Forensic Linguistics and Supervisory Special Agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit-1: Counterterrorism and Threat Assessment. Mr. Fitzgerald pioneered and developed Forensic Linguistics for the Critical Incident Response Group of the FBI. He is only fully credentialed profiler and forensic linguist in the history of the FBI. Among his many notable cases, Mr. Fitzgerald worked on the Unabomber case, Washington DC Sniper, Anthrax letters and the 9/11 attack. He and Dr. Leonard have worked together on cases and training workshops in forensic linguistics for the FBI and other law enforcement professionals.
Admission requirements for the master’s program include a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) with a GPA of 3.0 or better; scores of no less than 500 on the verbal and 500 on the quantitative sections of the GRE; a written statement of professional interests and goals; a personal interview; and permission of the program director. To finished their degree, students must earn 30 semester hours. of graduate-level credits. The program is comprised of 3 components: the core curriculum; electives; practicum internship and/or thesis.
Graduates of the program will be able to seek employment in organizations needing professionals with research and linguistic skills, and in any field in which people work with language, including government and academic institutions, business, industry, and communications. Continuing on to a PhD program in linguistics can lead to being able to testify as an expert witness in court, or consult on cases for law firms and government agencies.
For more information on the master’s contact Dr. Leonard at (516) 463-5440 or e-mail Robert.A.Leonard@hofstra.edu.
Related Link: More on Forensic Linguistics