Dr Alison Johnson

Dr Alison Johnson


I have taught in H.E. since 1994 at Westhill College of H.E and the universities of Birmingham, Huddersfield and Leeds. I began my working life as a police officer in the West Midlands Police, before taking my first degree as a mature student. My B.Ed degree in primary school education with English as a specialist subject led tomy interest in linguistics, and, by the end of my degree, I realised I wanted to wanted to pursue further study and follow an academic career.

MyMA in Special Applications of Linguistics was funded by the British Academy and at that point I decided to do doctoral research in forensic linguistics, after meeting Professor Malcolm Coulthard who was in the process of establishing the field of forensic linguistics and the journal at Birmingham. Malcolm has become a collaborator leading to three books over the last decade: 

2017. An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence. 2nd Edition (London: Routledge) [co-authored with Malcolm Coulthard and David Wright].

2010. The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics (London: Routledge) [co-edited with Malcolm Coulthard].

2007. An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence (London: Routledge) [co-authored with Malcolm Coulthard].
Dr Johnson has provided expert reports to the courts, solicitors, and the police in legal cases and has appeared as an expert witness in Crown Courts in England. 

Research interests

My research is in corpus-based forensic linguistics, language in legal settings. My work draws on and informs pragmatic, discourse, interactional sociolinguistic, and corpus linguistic theory. I am an editor of the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, an active member of the International Association of Forensic Linguists (IAFL) and the International Pragmatic Association (IPrA), and I have regularly presented papers at conferences organised by these associations.

My research interests include the sister areas of authorship studies and plagiarism.My authorship work includes work on the Enron corpus (which contains around 176 employees and 2.5 million words of email). I am also working on historical forensic linguistic research, using the Old Bailey Proceedings 1674-1913, a corpus of nearly 200,000 criminal trials. Recent conference papers and articles focus on a sub-corpus of 250 Old Bailey rape trials in the 18th century and the role of medical experts and defence barristers in 19th century trials involving an insanity defence. Formerly a police officer for six years, my doctoral research explored the use of questions in police interviews with both adults and children and I continue this research in published articles on narrative evaluation in the police interview, the use of quotation in interviewing and trial discourse, and impoliteness in trial discourse. I am co-author of An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence, 2nd Edition (2017) (with Malcolm Coulthard and David Wright) and co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics (2010) (with Malcolm Coulthard).

Research Student Supervision

I currently supervises the following doctoral students:

Adegbite, Matthew. Discursive Management of Power in Police/Suspect Interrogation in Nigeria.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sani, Nurshafawati Ahmad. Questioning and Answering Strategies in Malaysian Criminal Proceedings: A Corpus-Based Forensic Discourse Analysis.

The following are former PhD students who have completed their research and graduated and who are now working all over the world:

Abdullah, Ashraf. An Ethnographic Sociolinguistic Study of Arab and Anglo-American Virtual Identity in Second Life.                                                                                                                                                                                            Al Saeed, Neveen. Power and Resistance in Interrogations of Suspects in the Egyptian Judicial Process.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Alian, Najat. The Representation of the Arab Spring Narrative in English and Arabic News Media.
Laporte, Camille. Expressing Political Leadership in the UK, US, and France.
Nickel, Sandra. The (Re)Construction and Reflection of Religious and Socio-Political Reality through Linguistic Power in 19th Century Yoruba Mission Texts.
Sarfo, Emmanuel. Speech Acts in Ghanaian Parliamentary Discourse.
Satia, Emmanuel. Professional and Lay Interactants’ Use of Language to Construct and Negotiate Identities in Legal Contexts. (with Professor Kembo, Moi University, Kenya).
Wright, David. Stylistics versus Statistics: A Corpus-linguistic Approach to Combining Techniques in Forensic Authorship Analysis Using Enron Emails.
Murdoch, Millicent. A Forensic Linguistic Authorship Study into the Intra-author Variation across a Range of Different Electronic Communication Types (MA by Research).

I am happy to supervise research students (MA by Research and PhD) in the School of English (and in collaboration with other Schools) in areas closely concerned with my primary research interests in Forensic Linguistics: authorship, contemporary and historical courtroom discourse, and police interviewing.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Forensic Linguistics, School of English, University of Birmingham, 2005
  • MA in Special Applications of Linguistics, CELS, University of Birmingham, 1994 (Distinction)
  • B.Ed (Hons.), University of Birmingham, 1992 (First class).

Professional memberships

  • International Association of Forensic Linguists
  • International Pragmatics Association

Student education

I teach English Language in the School of English over a range of modules and at all levels. Particular areas of teaching expertise are grammar (Biber and Halliday), corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, and forensic linguistics. I offer specialist option modules in forensic linguistics, supervise undergraduate dissertations, and supervise a number of doctoral students.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>