The Case of Sherlock Holmes and Linguistic Analysis

Abigail Boucher, Ria C Perkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sherlock Holmes complicates the idea of the forensic scientist. Much of the scientific techniques attributed to Holmes are established forms of forensic science utilized by contemporaneous police departments. However, there is one element of forensic science that was truly innovative on the part of Conan Doyle in the Holmes canon: the representation of what we would now call the field of forensic linguistics. This article takes an interdisciplinary approach to the Holmes canon to interrogate Conan Doyle’s engagement with and occasional rejection of the scientific process in his development and representation of forensic linguistics. Five short stories (“A Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” “The Boscombe Valley Mystery,” “The Adventure of the Reigate Squire,” “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”) serve as case studies that in particular illustrate Conan Doyle’s innovation surrounding language and the detective process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-98
JournalEnglish Literature in Transition, 1880-1920
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 ELT


  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Victorian Literature
  • Detective Fiction
  • Crime Fiction
  • Popular Fiction
  • Nineteenth-Century Fiction
  • Linguistic Analysis
  • Conan Doyle


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