Assuming identities online: Authorship synthesis in undercover investigations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


A new task for the forensic linguist has recently arisen in the context of online investigations, for example in operations against online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Investigators often find themselves having to take over of an individual’s online identity for the purposes of intelligence gathering and/or securing an arrest, and language has a central role to play in this process. In this chapter I discuss the relationship between language and identity and describe the role of the forensic linguist in preparing undercover officers for the task described above. I detail the input that trainee online undercover investigators receive at the levels of structure, meaning, and interaction, and consider the effectiveness of this input for their analysis and assumption of alternate identities. This context provides a novel application of linguistic theory and forensic linguistic research, and it is hoped that this work will pave the way for future meaningful collaborations between forensic linguistics academics and investigative practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics
EditorsMalcolm Coulthard, Alison May, Rui Sousa-Silva
Place of PublicationUnited States
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780367137847
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


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