Resources and constraints in linguistic identity performance: a theory of authorship

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The majority of practicing forensic linguists working on questions of
authorship subscribe in some form to a theory of linguistic identity that relies
on a view of language as essentially a product of sociolinguistic experiences and
membership of particular identity categories. On the other hand, discourse analysts
tend to adopt a social interactionist view, seeing language as a resource to be
drawn on for the performance of particular identities. In order to bridge this gap
we set out our theory of identity which acknowledges the importance of pioneering
works such as Johnstone (1996) and Bucholtz and Hall (2004) who theorise identity
as being interactionally emergent, while simultaneously allowing space for certain
aspects of identity to persist across dierent interactional moments. Within the
context of deceptive identity performances by undercover police ocers in online
investigations against child sex abusers, we propose a model for understanding the
relationship between language and identity that is neither essentialist nor radically
interactionist. Such a model can support the work of the forensic linguist
in their endeavours to train ocers in identity assumption tasks, and explicates
a particular phenomenon we have observed in their attempts, namely identity



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-96
JournalLanguage and Law/Linguagem e Direito
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0)


  • Identity, authorship analysis, authorship synthesis, linguistic individual, assuming identities online

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