Gerald R. McMenamin, a professor emeritus from the Department of Linguistics at Fresno State, has written a course book that is the first of its kind.
“Introducción a la Lingüística Forense” is a textbook for college courses in forensic linguistics – the application of linguistic concepts, methods and insights to the forensic context of law, crime investigation, and trial and judicial procedure.
What sets this book apart is that it is the only such course book written entirely in Spanish using data from Spanish-language cases.
“There is a lot of research going on in forensic linguistics in Spain, Latin America, Mexico and the United States in Spanish,” McMenamin said. “But that research is presented in isolated articles and in edited collections. Up until now, there has been no single Spanish-language textbook that professors can use to introduce the subject of forensic linguistics to their students.”
Frederick Brengelman, a former colleague of McMenamin’s who is also a professor emeritus from the Linguistics Department, has read the book. He said “I stand in awe of that book. I can see how many hundreds of hours of work went into developing it.”
“I think the most interesting thing is how much Jerry provides an understanding of the concepts of idiosyncrasy in language,” Brengelman said. “His assumption, which he demonstrates all through the book, is that each of us has a distinctive style. Jerry included a wonderful section on the concept of style itself and that style is characterized by things that we are mostly not aware of. But a bunch of stylistic features taken together acts almost like a fingerprint to identify who the author of a text is.”
McMenamin, who taught at Fresno State from 1980 through 2013, has also created a companion website that works as an additional resource for the book.
“The field is fast moving. The web page enables me to keep the book up to date,” he said. “Secondly, the field is known for its voluminous materials. If you see attorneys going to court, you see them dragging boxes of materials. Those materials are important because they’re the primary source for what’s going on in the courtroom. Yet if I give a summary of that in the book, the students don’t have access to the primary sources. The website enables me to add those additional materials so that students can access them directly.”
In addition to PDFs of source documents, the website also has videos relevant to cases discussed and links to related materials – newspaper and magazine articles.