The Language of Crime


This module provides students with a vehicle for understanding of the language of crime the through conversation analysis, discourse analysis and Wittgensteinian arguments about the public nature of language use, for example, with respect to the understanding of insults and bullying. The module therefore considers, philosophical issues, contemporary studies, debates and critiques in relation to crime and other issues.


The aim of this Module is to provide the student with : an understanding of the principles, practices, applications and critiques of conversation and discourse analysis with repect to the language of crime.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Critically evaluate the conversation analytic approach and be able to conduct a piece of analysis related to crime.

2.  Critically evaluate the discourse analytic approach and be able to conduct a piece of analysis related to crime.

3.  Critically evaluate the the Wittgensteininan logico-grammatical approach to language use in relation to understanding the language of crime.

Indicative Content

1 Conversation Analysis

This aspect of the module considers the roots of conversation analysis in ethnomethodology and the study of social order at the local level. The nature of the conversation analytic approach is examined alongside in terms of classic and contemporary studies. Studies examined include topics such as police interrogations, counsel and witness courtroom interaction, sexual consent and refusals.

2 Discourse Analysis

This aspect of the module considers the different approaches to discourse analysis: from conversation analytic to critical approaches. The nature of these are explored through contemporary studies including topics such as: criminal speech acts such as conspiracy, threats, solicitation, swearing and offensive language; police talk about trauma; youth crime in the media; constructing the legitimacy of whistleblowers; phishing emails; the reporting of intimate partner violence.

3 Wittgenstein and Ordinary Language Philosophy

This aspect of the module considers the resurgence of interest in Wittgenstein's approach to language use. The focus here is on the his reference to language games and includes consideration of topics such as the law and vagueness; the problem of abusive language, the conceptual instability of consent.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The pedagogical approach adopted in this module involves a dual strategy of delivering key concepts and exemplars of analyses of conversational and textual material in the lectures follwed by the application of these in tutorial classes through in-class exercises. A reading week is built into the teaching schedule in order to afford students some time to absorb and critically reflect upon the inital focus of the module on language as a vehicle for accomplishing actions.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 36
Lecture 24
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 0
Independent 0

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.