Forensic linguistics encompasses a wide variety of disciplines. Dr. Perlman specializes in four of them, deriving from his academic background and his real-world experience as a writer and editor.
(1) Interpretation of contracts, wills, laws, and other binding documents: expert judgment on clarity, meaning, comprehensibility and (un)ambiguity.
What was intended to be said — and what, if anything, does the document actually say? Is it ambiguous, and, if so, what are the possible interpretations, given the semantics, syntax, and pragmatics (roughly, the intent and purpose) of the text(s) in question?
Prenups and other contracts designed to be air-tight are exactly where writing problems occur, as people try to execute complex ideas and cover all contingencies.
Dr. Perlman analyzes specific words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and other units, including the entire document, to offer informed judgments on clarity, comprehensibility, and (un)ambiguity.
Case example: A man suffered damages from defective rental equipment; he did not know that he had released the company from liability by signing a contract that was, when quantitatively compared with everyday writing (e.g., USA Today), too complex to understand.
(2) Plagiarism: expert opinion on likelihood of plagiarism.
In the Internet age, plagiarism – deliberate, dishonest appropriation of another’s words and/or ideas — has been redefined.
Problems occur when the traditional definitions are applied: similarity of text, which is what plagiarism tools find, is not a basis for a charge of plagiarism. It is not unique but prosaic information that is most likely copied, thus undermining the traditional charge of plagiarism. Much more is in the public domain than ever before.
Case example: The creator of an online course found it stolen and being offered – with sentence structure modified — by someone else. Dr. Perlman helped substantiate his charges.
Case examples: Dr. Perlman has defended many academic writers, from college students to law professors, against groundless charges of plagiarism, which are often based on (i) similarity of items in the public domain or (ii) misunderstanding of the institution’s quotation/paraphrase rules.
In literary plagiarism allegations, one writer accuses another of stealing his/her ideas. But these usually turn out to be widespread, occurring in typical books of this genre. Courts have ruled that elements of theme and setting are not protectable..
(3) Copyright/trademark infringement: informed judgment on the genericity, specificity, and protectability of individual words, phrases, and brand names; assessment of linguistic similarity to evaluate infringement claims.
The question here is: to what extent is the item already part of the language (unless it’s a “fanciful” term like Xerox or Xanax, the most easily protectable)?
If it is already a lexical unit, it can still be trademarked, even if it’s “suggestive” (Dawn, Joy) or descriptive (Simple Green). But you cannot market a name that already stands for a whole category of items, e.g., Pants.
Dr. Perlman also considers cases in which one company’s mark may be too similar to another’s, causing confusion to consumers or clients.
Case example: Dr. Perlman demonstrated that another marketer’s brand name was, on several linguistic levels, similar to that of the attorney’s client.
(4) Authorship: Dr. Perlman conducts analysis of a language sample — the grammar, lexicon, and other features — to offer an expert opinion on the likelihood of particular suspected writers, single-author/forged texts, and other legal/linguistic hypotheses, via a method verified in thousands of academic studies and real-world cases.
Here’s where his vast experience in text analysis is relevant. Everybody has a writing style — some more obvious than others — and he can usually make an authorship call with some (or a lot of) certainty based on feature occurrence and pattern similarities. If the writer is a foreign language speaker, his/her style will be even more obvious.
Case example: anonymous letters of complaint to a company’s Board; forged letters (by a single author) in employment dispute.
Case example: An ex-husband’s new wife was writing emails over his signature. Dr. Perlman was asked to identify the elements of her style and help resolve the disputed authorship.
Other examples from the above four case categories:
Expert opinion on status of compound words (trademark infringement litigation).
Expert opinion on plagiarism of song lyrics (copyright litigation involving musical group The Who).
Authorship analysis of e-mails in Florida internal union dispute.
Preliminary analysis of authorship issues in malpractice litigation.
Expert opinion on authorship issues in business partnership dispute involving anonymous writings.
Authorship analysis of anonymous letters of complaint to a corporation’s Board of Directors.
Expert opinion on the semantics of trademark infringement in litigation by an apparel firm.
Authorship analysis of anonymous letters (possibly written by disgruntled employees) for major Midwestern corporation.
Authorship analysis of emails to website of a “cult deprogrammer.”
Expert opinion on linguistic similarities between plaintiff’s and defendant’s trademarks.
Authorship analysis of defamatory emails written to an individual in a corporation.
Authorship advice on a possibly forged stock transfer document.
Authorship analysis of letters involved in the Son of Sam case.
Analysis to support allegations of plagiarism of online course material.
Interpretation of contract language regarding the disposition of acquired corporate entities.
Defense against charges of academic and student plagiarism (several cases).
Analysis of chat transcripts to determine whether defendant engaged in enticement or seduction.
Authorship analysis of emails in divorce and custody disputes (several cases).
Expert opinion on whether The DaVinci Code was plagiarized from the client’s writing (it was not).
Offering a new service: editing and writing support
As of July 1, Dr. Perlman will officially (there have been unofficial cases) begin to advertise himself as an assistant/editor for legal documents and articles.
Need an expert?
Stipulated: attorneys and other legal professionals are in general good to excellent writers. But the law, as eminent linguist Roger Shuy put it, is overwhelmingly about language. In legal documents and articles, the most complex ideas have to be conveyed in the most understandable, persuasive, and unmistakable way.
There is typically room for improvement. Dr. Perlman can provide the benefit of his long years of experiience in the improvement of most legal documents — emphasis on “most”:. If they pass muster in the eyes of a former English professor, professional writer, and academic linguist…well, good for them! It’s a high bar. But still, most documents could benefits from a linguist’s evaluation, even if only a few sentences are improved. Often it’s more than that.
Consult him at email@example.com
- Calling for an end to pronomania - Pronomania [pro-no-MAY-nee-ah], n. an obsession with multiplying third-person personal pronouns to indicate a large number of genders, subjectively defined, resulting in the proliferation of personal pronouns, the announcement of “my” pronouns, and the user’s enhanced self-image and feeling of virtuous sensitivity to gender. Some people think they know about pronouns. They know nothing. They think... Read more »
- “Critical Race Theory,” Part II: Where are the linguists? - “Linguistics is virtually invisible to most people…” — Roger Shuy, Language Crimes, 1996 “Critical Race Theory” is not going away. Although the slogan is heard almost everywhere in academia and education, almost no one inquires into what it actually means in practice. It means a lot of different things, which is a good thing for... Read more »
- “Critical Race Theory”: A triumph of marketing and branding - As there is now an inexorable push to make Critical Race Theory a required part of America’s educational system, pushback is required. Kudos to Andrew Gutman, the Brearly (NY) School father who stood up, in no uncertain terms, to the relentless indoctrination to which his kid had been subjected (for $50,000+/year). Twice poisoned As Candace Owens... Read more »
- On “semantic games” and “infrastructure” - When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s... Read more »
- Now, President Zero: The final devolution of Presidential rhetoric - When orators and [audiences] have the same prejudices, those prejudices run a great risk of being made to stand for incontestable truths. Joseph Roux All that is necessary to raise imbecility into what the mob regards as profundity is to lift it off the floor and put it on a platform. George Jean Nathan... Read more »
- Cancel culture comes for Dr. Seuss. What next? - As we see censorship, it is a stupid giant traffic policeman answering ‘Yes’ to ‘Am I my brother’s copper?’ He guards a one-way street and his semaphore has four signs, all marked ‘STOP.’ Franklin P. Adams, Nods and Becks, 1944 The problem of freedom in America is that of maintaining a competition of ideas,... Read more »
- Latest language crime: “equity” - [In George Orwell’s 1984] Syme [a Party official] encourages Winston to recognize that the ‘whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought’. He explains that ‘in the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.’ Syme refers to the fact that individual... Read more »
- The language of Fox News: Two views - ‘Why can’t human beings live simply and naturally?’ The trouble is that, as Susan K. Langer has said, ‘The symbol-making function is one of man’s primary activities. . .It is the fundamental process of the mind, and it goes on all the time.’ S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action If you are on... Read more »
- Latest language abuse: “deprogramming Trump supporters” - Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. — Nietzsche We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them. — Goethe To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting. — Stanislaus I of Poland... Read more »
- American chaos: Did Trump incite? - Where the laws are not supreme, there demagogues spring up. — Aristotle, 4th c. BCE The people are capable of good judgment when they do not listen to demagogues. — Napoleon I (1814-5) Demagogy enters at the moment when, for want of a common denominator, the principle of equality degenerates into a principle of... Read more »