Friday, August 14, 2020

Resources for Forensic Linguistics

Forensic linguistics is a branch of linguistics that is concerned with (mostly) criminal investigations and the use of linguistic analysis in this process. For example, a very simple task of a forensic linguist could be to analyse the linguistic content of a threat message and try to find out the writer of this text. A linguist who is trained in text analysis and stylistics will find themselves equipped with such tools that would be helpful in this analysis. Today, corpus linguistics is heavily used in text analysis for forensic linguistics. Moreover, forensic linguistics is not just about investigating threat messages or suicide notes, there are many more opportunities with the new mediums of communication on the internet, e.g. the analysis of social media texts for deception, fake news, disinformation, and trolling.
I have come to know some people and resources in last few years in this area. Following them on social media (Twitter) will be helpful for the reader to widen their horizons and/or get more information about forensic linguistic methods.
As far as books related to forensic linguistics are concerned, a simple Google search with 'forensic linguistics' can return many titles including introductory books and handbooks about forensic linguistics. PDFs for many books can be found on Library Genesis (search on Google or use DuckDuckGo Search Engine that is a bit more merciful in searching such websites).

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Comparative Stylistic Analysis of English and Urdu Newspaper Headlines


Presented at: the 2nd Kashmir International Conference on Linguistics 2015, AJK University
By: Muhammad Shakir (Associate Lecturer, University of Gujrat) & Dr. Muhammad Asim Mahmood (Associate Professor, Govt. College University Faisalabad)
Summary: Newspaper headlines are a distinct sub-genre of newspaper language. They perform a number of functions, the most important of which is to provide an overview of the news story. A number of newspapers in Urdu as well as English are published in Pakistan. Four national level newspapers of each language are selected in this research study. These newspapers differ in the conventions of headline setting, at the same time they also adopt features from each other. The first page of Urdu newspapers shows maximum number of headlines, while English newspapers have more modular nature. Space saving techniques at graphological and lexical level are present in both languages. Considerable differences are observed at grammatical level. Urdu newspaper headlines are more detailed; tend to use complete sentences and complex sentence types. English newspaper headlines are less lengthy, tend to use simple sentences and non-finite clauses, and are less likely to use complex sentence types. On the whole, Urdu newspapers tend to provide maximum information in headlines while English newspapers are less likely to do so.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Surprise meal

Every week I divide myself in roughly two halfs and we have this conversation:
I: So what are we eating tonight?
I too: I don't know.
I: What do you mean by you don't know? You cooked it!
I too: I know I cooked it. But that was last week.
I: So you know?!
I too: I don't remember, that was LAST WEEK.
I: Ohh k, that's understandable.
I too: Yes, it is. So, what are we eating then?
I: I can't say anything before I see. Let's open the freezer and find out.
I too: It is a surprise meal by our past self to us. Isn't it?
I: Well, it certainly is. But that happens every week. Isn't it?
I too: I don't remember, because it was last week.
And then we merge back together to eat this week's surprise dish prepared by my one week younger self.
PS: today's surprise was chicken and some vegetables.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Understanding Multidimensional Analysis

Multidimensional Analysis is a quantitative framework to study register variation developed by Douglas Biber. These slides present a very basic introduction of this methodology and its assumptions.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

In the hospital

When we were in High School, we had to memorize English essays and paragraphs that would be later reproduced in the examination. A little capable student would probably be able to add a couple of sentences in the already memorized content or he or she might be able to rewrite the sentences in their own words but mostly it was already cooked recipes that we were supposed to rewrite in the examination to produce grammatically and spelling-ly correct English. I remember that from year 4 or 5 in the school until year 14 in the college / University we kept on memorizing lengthier and more complex sentence structures under almost the same titles. One of those titles was "a visit to the hospital."

I am suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a mild condition I would say, still I had to visit a Neurologist to get myself diagnosed correctly and to see what could be done medically to prevent the problem in my hands. That means I went to hospital, a private one, in my local city Faisalabad as I am visiting my country for a couple of weeks this year. As I was waiting for the doctor to arrive, I had to wait here and there sit somewhere or stand outside to spend time and to ponder about my English education and essays I memorized to reproduce in dozens of examinations. Naturally "a visit to the hospital" was first title that came to my mind and ironically a few bits and pieces that I remember from those different versions of the same essay, I could still remember the bad condition of the hospitals that we used to describe in our essays: the shortage of sitting places, overcrowded wards and corridors and miserable condition of cleanliness. This private hospital was not that bad like public sector hospitals still it was over crowded.

When you live in a country like Pakistan where the population is more than 200 million people and the services and other facilities scarce or simply not enough to accommodate each and everyone, you find ways to fool the system, to get around or to simply make it easier for yourself to get through and grab the service by the use of money or the reference system (here by reference system I mean asking some acquaintance who is working in the field or in the same industry to call favours from his colleagues, batchmates or seniors / juniors to get a little better or early access to the service). So I was also such a sifarshi (recommended one) who stood nearby waiting for the signal from the officials standing outside to bypass the queue, get himself checked and leave the building as soon as possible, and at the same time thinking about the miserable condition of the hospitals, how it was like that since forever and how nothing was being done to improve it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning German

Fortunately or unfortunately I am in Germany these days. Why? Because I got a scholarship to do my PhD at a German university. Bravo! That was a great achievement. But it also included four months of German language learning. I will not write my PhD dissertation in German, nonetheless it was kind of compulsory to avail the offer from German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). So I spent last four months in a language school here in my university city M√ľnster at a very good German language school Kapito. It was a great experience to learn a foreign language (a little hard at first because I used to be an English language teacher in Pakistan and it was difficult for me to accept myself as a student of a foreign language). For about four months, I and my class fellows did our best to enjoy and have fun in our class and our teachers tried their best to teach us German. So after all these months How do I feel? What is German like? Is it easy to learn? Is it like English? A lot of questions can be asked. Let me try to answer and share my observations about German.

  • At the beginning I wanted to learn German Phonology because I am trained in English Phonology using Phonetic charts and tables. I was wrong, you cannot learn to pronounce the sounds of a new language simply by knowing place and manner of articulation. It needs a lot of practice which I still lack to be frank. But it is good to know that German is a lot more phonetic language as compared to English.
  • I thought German is like English. I tried to understand German grammar w.r.t. English grammar. Resultantly I failed badly. German grammar is awfully more complex as compared to English grammar. The inflection system, the articles and grammatical gender, the case system, pronouns (and their case specific forms) and the word order (a lot more fluent due to rich inflection system) is a nightmare at the start. All of these things are bombarded on the beginner on A1 level, and one has to cope with it, because it is the base. I still only know about half of it by heart.
  • German has a lot of similarity with English and Latin (and other European languages). But these similarities can only be traced in etymology of words and some general grammatical concepts (prepositional phrases for instance as opposed to post positional phrases in my mother tongue Punjabi and Urdu). German gives a lot of importance to Verb at second position in main clause. Conversely verb(s) in a dependent clause are put at the end (in reverse order if an auxiliary is involved as well). Having been trained in English Linguistics, I find it (after 4 months) easy to learn German syntax.
  • German verbs have a lot more forms (inflections) because of more complex pronoun system (distinction in singular/plural and formal you). German does not have a progressive tense (but there are adverbs to fill in the gap). I am not sure how many tenses, but I just know Present, Perfect, Past, Past Perfect and a kind of future tense using verb 'werden'. German modal verbs are more or less like English but they are confusing as well (Subjunctive mode has different verb forms, 'will' in German is 'want to').
  • German loves to make compound nouns with just putting various words together (no dash or indication of sub parts). One has to be familiar with the sub parts (sub words) to pronounce and understand the noun. These nouns can be quite long sometimes.
  • Germans love their language. They encourage foreigners to talk in German and they become very happy when you do that. So I am also trying these days to do the same, as being a linguistics student I know that language cannot be learned without using it properly.
  • Lastly, German is easy if you give it some time, hear FM in German and watch German TV, read German newspapers and websites and try to use it (even if it is wrong). My biggest flaw being a student is I like to listen or read (and write with the help of dictionary) German but does not speak. Perhaps it is because I learnt English the same way i.e. a lot of years without speaking. My teachers also asked me to break the barrier and speak even with mistakes, in simpler words and not to look for sophisticated vocabulary and (after failing to do so) switch to English. I hope to be able to do that in coming days.
So if you want to learn German, it just needs some dedication, motivation and usage to learn a language. You provide these ingredients and just within six months you will see the positive results.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dictionary of Linguistic Terms (English Urdu)

I am a translator. Yes, I am not a 'scholarly' translator. Even being a freelance translator, I feel helpless when there are no resources. Well, for me, resources are dictionaries, terminologies and word banks which help me translate quickly and efficiently. It is very hard to re-invent the wheel every time, when I do not find a standard translation of an English word. I must also admit that I am very lazy and try my best not to open any manual dictionary. So I am left online searching non-standard sources to find an equivalent of a given English term. The situation is not very promising. We need to digitize English Urdu dictionaries and terminology banks. While we are working on that, I have scanned an English Urdu terminology for linguistic terms for myself and the other translators out there. This is a searchable PDF (only for English text) and it can be very useful for someone who is as lazy as I am. A quick search by Ctrl+F will certainly give you a clue of the Urdu word you are looking for.
So after all this bragging, let us go to the link and download the PDF.
Book Name: Dictionary of Linguistic Terms (English to Urdu)
Editor: Professor Amir Ali Khan
Publisher: National Language Authority, Islamabad, Pakistan.