All posts by Sun Kaushik

I Had The Best Day With You Today

It’s been a few weeks of being in all sorts of transitory and symbolic places; bus terminals, subway cars, airports, and the hospital. Thankfully, my uncle recuperated well enough to fly home this Friday, and so I found myself helping out with facilitating a drive on the Belt Parkway, to drop him and my aunt off at LaGuardia. But, then it was my father’s turn to experience a health scare, and while my mother and my brother were able to get a handle on things, the fear still hasn’t vanished. I wrote in my second blog that I know at some point, things like this are possible, and that yes, at some point, my loved ones will pass on. I just always thought that before falling ill or passing, there would be some sort of build-up, some sort of indication like there was with my grandmother, but everything thus far has been sudden, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. I can’t even fully explain what it felt like over the weekend; the cognitive load that comes with experiencing this sort of thing twice in less than a month is crushing, and a liminal space I do not want to be in. I’m being entirely too vulnerable here, but I can’t say I’m surprised; things may not always be perfect, and we may butt heads way too often, but yeah, my Dad is my best friend, and the person I’m growing up to be a better version of, and I want him there to see it all unfold. Who else is going to call me out when I’m wrong or out of line? Or take me on an unnecessary Costco trip to take my mind off of how frustrating people and school can be while I eat “pizza”? Who else would I work out with at the local park when I need to go for a run but don’t want to be alone?

After a semester of having to commute together, I think there’s a lot more I’ve come to understand and realize about exactly what kind of things my Dad specifically has always sacrificed and braved for his family, so I have to have this semester end on a strong note, not a swan song. I owe him the bare minimum. After this, I also know that a good portion of my winter break is going to be dedicated to hanging out with my parents. I don’t want to bring the mood down any more than I already have for my last blog of the semester, so I’ll try to capture my emotions and give hope for the future with the tune of “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift. (And naturally, Taylor’s version!)

Saturday was a split day since the above was happening, and I still had a commitment I had to fulfill in New York. Luckily, I’ve always been good at keeping my wits about me (having a positive internal monologue, as well as a stress ball handy helps!) and I was able to navigate my way from home to Park Slope, where another life-altering event took place; I met Stan Fischler, the living legend, the Maven, the greatest hockey historian at his book signing! It was surreal hearing his jokes, stories about the Dodgers and hunting down ice cream in a New York Blizzard, and learning how to make an egg cream in 90 minutes. None of this could have been possible without the help and mentorship of Professor Falkowski from the Communications department! It’s insane to look back and realize it all started the day I wore my Jim Craig replica jersey for courage when I had to present in Samina’s class for the first time; the Miracle on Ice led to another miracle! 

With this, of course, comes an even deeper immersion into the world of hockey, that I’m naturally excited for, and yet somewhat apprehensive of. By taking on the role of a gameday volunteer with the Riveters, and then hopefully getting to a Devils game from a perspective beyond just that of a fan, I’m in closer proximity to the things I love than I ever thought would be possible. 

It feels like my dreams that always seemed impossible are right in front of me; my Dad’s words of wisdom, that life can change at any moment, as long as you’re there, finally make sense. And I just know that becoming more involved in this regard is going to comprise a good amount of my time over winter break as well. Believe me, I’m not complaining one bit! I know that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but after how much I struggled this semester, it’s also my light at the end of the tunnel. Hockey in general has always had a sense of hope attached to it for me; like I said many blogs ago, every season is a fresh start, with experience. I’ve met some incredible and inspiring people along the way, and I have to do things right by them, and hopefully, I’ll be that person for someone else in the future. 

Other things will also be weighing on me heading into winter break as well; post-Christmas is the start of a serious, committed job search, there’s Student Government training and other assorted responsibilities, and hopefully somewhere in between some time to spend with friends, but also by myself, doing things I love again! These past few months have been mostly utilitarian, with even normally relaxing activities like journaling and working out always having the subtext of getting this over with so you can get back to work. Working through this all-or-nothing mentality is looking more and more like a Herculean task by the second, but something says I can, I must, if I stay the course. And as childish as it may seem to some, I do want to go out and experience some life! Now’s the time for impromptu day trips and bookstore adventures and concerts and hockey games. It’s the perfect moment for savoring warm cups of coffee and daring to bake something new. 

Rest assured, there’s going to be plenty of progress made on my thesis as well since it’s still haunting me in everything I do. It’s very overdue, but thank you to everyone who provided feedback after my presentation a few weeks ago! The dream semester finally came true for me, since the content across all my classes clicked and connected! I gained the high ground, intellectually. The most invaluable class proved to be my out-of-program elective, Conflict Resolution. It’s cheesy, but this is indeed the class that’s changed my life more than any other course I’ve taken from undergrad to now. I was challenged and constantly engaged with the material, in the class and outside of it too. (Honestly, I don’t think I could have made it to the end of the semester without employing a lot of the skills I learned from the material.) Promulgation or the clear statement of goals is a big part of conflict resolution, and I’m writing now that at least an hour a day will be dedicated to working on my thesis. And that hour can manifest itself however it likes.

It might be early morning or late night. Sometimes, that one hour will be just sitting and thinking about what the logic next step in writing or research is, rather than the go go go action that I’ve favored as of late. Maybe I will do some more research! And of course, there’s going to be a deeper dive into how to apply my methodology of protocol analysis, as well as discourse analysis so this thesis isn’t one-dimensional. And hopefully, most days that one hour will spiral into two or three. 

Looking back on everything I learned this semester and everything I survived, I can say I’m a better version of myself in spite of all of it. Sure, there’s still a little big chip on my shoulder, and sticking to school, there’s a lot I wish went differently, but there’s hope on the horizon. A while back, I compared my thesis progress to a hockey game and said I was on a three-on-five penalty kill. But, it looks like I’m back to even strength, and there might even be a line change on the horizon! (The Devils shutout win tonight is clearly inspiring me as well!) Congrats to Amber, Hugo, Tom, and Kelsey on graduating! I know you’re all going to be doing some amazing things, and know that you will be missed.

I’ll leave you with “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty, and I hope you have an amazing winter break! 

What’s the Frequency, Sun?

So, things in life were more than a little rough and troublesome last week! I’m still worrying and trying to figure out how I can best help my family and where to go from here, but, this weekend was a reprieve from all of that, as well as the looming pressures and deadlines of school! I spent the most important parts of Saturday and Sunday at the RWJ Barnabas Hockey House, helping to support the Metropolitan Riveters, the PHF hockey team for the area, and it still feels like a dream! From fellow gameday volunteers and interns to arena staff, to GM Anya Packer and the team, I met so many amazing people and had quite possibly, the best weekend of my life, ever! I can’t even begin to describe everything, but I think the momentum and excitement being there is bringing to my work in all classes is definitely palpable and something to behold! 

There have also been a lot of silver linings this week; I had my lunch stolen out of the fridge at work on Friday, but I got to have a lunch date with an old professor and another close friend instead! I know this is going to sound super silly, and even privileged, but when Starbucks forgot to add milk to my order yesterday, I got a whole separate cup of milk to pour it in myself! (These bones are strong!) And despite everything that happened last week with my uncle, things are looking better, and for the first time in my twenty-two years of living, I’ll have extended family to spend a holiday with! 

This week, I’ll be presenting on my closely-guarded thesis topic, forensic linguistics! (And don’t worry Susan, I know that you present first!) It’s equal parts intriguing and intellectual as it is expansive and interpretive, so be on the lookout for lots of explication and background at first, a rationale for why I’m interested in this field of study, and a plan of attack to ultimately create… well, a thesis! 

As my past few blog posts have suggested, the road to my thesis thus far has actually been a lot more like a bunch of potholes, with minimal paving in between. I’m still a bit torn between the two possibilities for orientations; research or creative? It’s been touched upon in previous blog posts, but there is pervasive insecurity around both for me; I hate sharing my creative writing with others, but the research angle has not been smooth sailing in terms of design and implementation thus far. There’s also the fact that I’d rather have the former to blend in with most of the class, while the latter is just instinctually who I am. And just when I think I’ve figured it out, the vicious cycle of “but creative will get better engagement and feedback and constructive criticism” versus “research is practical and fun and right up your alley” starts up all over again. 

I do have a short reprieve for everyone from my inner turmoil, and it comes in the form of this teaser of the creative piece I hashed out a week and a half ago, thinking that it might help me expedite the research design process. I’ll establish a bit more background of what is going on here during class, so make sure to tune in at 4:30! Feel free to put on “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” as you read, and I’ll see you then!

Teaser Creative Work based on Forensic Linguistics 

“Silenus may have been onto something.”

“Who is that?”

“The satyr who unraveled the universe for King Midas. It’s Greek mythology.”  

At that moment, I knew my date had asked another question, either regarding who King Midas was, or where I would have read Greek mythology, or even why I had, but it didn’t matter. Her tone and line of questioning told me all I needed to know. Clearly, she was only asking to be polite, probably wasn’t going to Google any information after the date, and would believe anything I said at this point to save face. She was already starting to look uncomfortable, and the honest answer wasn’t going to lighten the atmosphere.

“He told King Midas the greatest wish anyone could ever have is to either never be born or to die swiftly and avoid any of the great pains and atrocities of human life because we are built to self-destruct or destroy everyone in our path.” 

I could see her face falter, and the words get stuck in her throat a few times before she cleared it. A speech bubble practically appeared above her head before letting out a soft “Oh, that’s interesting.” That line was the last nail in this social coffin. No matter how hard she tried to initiate another conversation, it lacked authenticity. She was trying too hard to forecast my responses. As I anticipated, it only took a few more awkward glances and forced grins before we parted ways, stomachs half-full. She to a cab, with the promise of a text when she reached her home safely, and myself to walk in the night air and ponder the merit of Silenus for another moment.

With the atrocities I witness regularly at work, it seems that Silenus is indeed correct; apathy, selfishness, and the need to perform for others are how most people waste their lives away. There are contracts signed with ink but stained with spilled blood or broken relationships and emotional turmoil underneath, the whispers that get enhanced to screams to unravel plans of murder or intent to hurt another, and the general documentation of human greed and apathy. Language can tell us the what and the how, but no matter how much the perpetrator explains, or what you analyze from it, sometimes there’s never any closure about the why. 

It rained just like any other Thursday night in Seattle. The pelting drops echoed as they hit the window and raced down the glass, to see which could reach their demise faster. The flickering porch light greeted me with fragments of orange on the banister and stairs leading to the door, which opened to my fortress of isolation. Still, there was no chime on my phone, no flashing light on my landline. 

Her cab should have dropped her off at least 15 minutes ago. Maybe she just forgot and went to bed? That doesn’t seem like her, but that Silenus conversation must have bummed her out. 

—–

“And when exactly did you say you last saw her?” 

“Where did she say she was going?”
“Did you happen to catch any part of the cab’s plate, the driver’s description…” 

For once, I was on the opposite side of the glass, and not the one asking the questions or doing the analysis. 

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Slowly Learning Life is OK

  Every street has a house with the last flickering orange porch light on at night and this cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood is no exception. The stairs that lead up to the backdoor are nearly immaculate, except for the scuff marks from fresh bike tires and skate wheels that were constantly rolled up and down, and the tell-tale sign of past teenage rebellion. Flecks of spray paint still glow in the dim lighting, and when the door slams and the light briefly flickers, it looks just like the embers of all the cigarettes stomped out on the base of the steps. All the cars up and down the street have changed for the most part, but the image of a family-friendly sedan with a dent on the fender from a wrist shot that went a little too wide is still imaginable. Slanted blinds give a glimpse of plants and scattered memories in the form of photos and books all over the coffee table. An almost perfect parallel of growth between nature and the human inhabitants. The sounds of laughter and elated cheering and chants still ring through the halls. 

But upstairs, there is another light that never goes out; the desk lamp of an emerging adult, who spends more time in their head than the world around them most days. So many thoughts swirl and braid together, or float away before they can ever fully form, and sometimes never return. And within that space, there are the pillars of their values and character on display for anyone to see; perseverance, humility, and above all else, a yearning to live a fulfilling life. The remnants of childhood interests and passion still shine with posters on the wall, figurines, and little scribbles on the insides of notebooks. The most common being “You are only as good as your values.” But what exactly are those values? Are those values a steady foundation or a roadblock? 

The deeper I wade into graduate studies, forensic linguistics, and simultaneously, my own life, the more it calls into question all my secure bases, especially as far as this thesis is concerned. The past couple of weeks have been nothing but mounting, and now insurmountable negativity and frustration, some internal and some absorbed from others. It’s coming from all angles and no matter what I do, nothing seems to be getting better. I can’t even put everything into words.

My project, if there even is one, just feels so obtuse and unfocused, and it sucks, for lack of a better phrase. (Actually, fucking sucks would be more accurate. Apologies for the one swear.) It feels like there’s a minimum direction and no clear vision of what to do. Every week is the same routine; research and lit review. Research and lit review and maybe some more pathetic attempts at research design. All of it is fueled by survivalist instincts, of being able to kid me into thinking I’m inching closer towards the things I want to accomplish when I’m running on a treadmill, not a track. I hate this feeling of lingering dread, and the anticipation of failure, even though I know that fear is unfounded because at least I’m trying. Part of it stems from those values that I think define a large part of who I am; what is the point of caring so much, or trying so hard when the exact opposite would probably still get me the same results with less internal pressure? Everything I like or care about feels kind of stupid right now. Why bother putting my playlists into blog posts anymore? Who cares other than me what’s going on in my life or what I care about? Is it all that Seneca I read during my adolescent years that led me to reify the belief a facade of happiness is my own form of stoicism I must maintain, and that’s why I won’t give it up? And why does recognizing frustration always have to feel so much more like a blame game than humility and self-care in action? There’s way too much happening all at once, and it’s happening to me, because of and in spite of myself. And the worst part is, it feels like this turmoil is supposed to be normal. (I know it’s not. But all of the above is by and large why I didn’t post last week.) 

To focus specifically on my thesis, I know that there’s only one accurate way to define what it feels like in this very moment; this thesis is comparable to a never-ending three-on-five penalty kill, with the opposing five being the Russian Five line. (I picked this line in particular not only for their cultural impact and significance in how hockey is now played but also because Igor Larionov is nicknamed “The Professor.” Here’s to looking at you, Dr. Zamora!) I have no illusions about myself or my blogs, which probably aren’t the must-reads I wish they were, so I might as well, continue the breakdown of my breakdown over this thesis so far with hockey rhetoric! (Maybe it’ll get me somewhere, or at least make hockey make more sense, or seem interesting to anyone who reads it!)

Play-by-Play Going Into The Second Period

I picked a topic, so that’s like winning a face-off. It’s a small victory, but it kicks everything else in the three periods into gear. My main tread thus far has been my nearly-complete literature review; I made a tizzy of an outline of the areas I’d target and different sources to do so, and I stuck to it! We can count that as an even-strength goal. I figured out what methods of analysis I would need for either a research paper or a creative project. This deserves the distinction of a power-play goal. I couldn’t figure out what question I wanted to ask of all my sources and research methodology; we’ll call that a penalty for something like charging or roughing since I was not nice to myself that week. (Good thing my favorite little old man was there to save the day! I guess Dad’s kind of like a coach in this scenario.) After I figured that question out, the first penalty kill of this process came to a close, and it was back to even strength for a bit! Next came the tricky part of figuring out how to actually conduct an original qualitative research experiment; the challenge and fear it brings about while working in tandem with a different research angle, one of media studies and analysis for research days is a lot like an odd-man rush. Luckily, the netminder was on par as far as the second idea went, so the puck was covered, and with a few dings off the pipes but no goals-against, the first period of play drew to an end. 

As the second period started, tensions began to mount, and it was clear in the sloppy play. In the quest to get other assignments and responsibilities cleared away, the puck, or my focus, was bobbled. My defense, which was the intricate mix of Notion, Google Calendar, and timers galore, wasn’t enough to sustain my mechanical approach to school, leaving it to take a big hit along the boards. And then it happened; the first goal-against. And a short-handed one, to boot! The replay didn’t show the whole picture, but it also didn’t hide the things I’d rather shy away from admitting to; I started crumbling under the pressure, and that gave way to more than a little apathy. That question of why care and really try when others doing the opposite always get ahead anyway just echoed, like an annoying goal horn, and no matter how much I tried to prove my own resilience to myself, it was futile. I could get on board with everything but my thesis, which constituted a really long time-out. But, the game must either go on, or be forfeited, so it was time for another line change. 

Analyzing structures of power, macro and micro depictions of bonding, examining the various identities and mitigation strategies of conflict, linguistic injustice, and bias on a global scale, the issues of race, politics, and individual identities that bleed into a collective identity, sometimes prescriptive and oftentimes independently constructed and contested all come naturally to me to a degree. So does drawing the connections and similarities between the concepts. It keeps my plus-minus stat (or goal differential, if you prefer), relatively neutral. Eh, I’ll be nice and say I’m at least +12 for the semester not counting this turmoil. 

It’s fascinating to surmise this is the content I’m excelling with, but the thesis I chose and I feel an attachment, or bond to, that I would count as a reflection of my academic identity is just a waking nightmare every time I see a related file on my computer. And yes, it still haunts me in everything I do, and through many of my thoughts, and as my work in other classes shows, I know how to apply forensic linguistics to various forms of text. So, it’s not all for naught! I can consider my applicational prowess of forensic linguistics my one-timer. 

Some of the frustration stems from feeling like an outlier, knowing that this is one hell of a research design; it’s focalized around analyzing published articles and techniques and systems already in motion, so prior experience isn’t something I can really rely on. All my research so far has involved some quantitative element, or at least original data collection at the very least. There’s also the aggravation of wondering if I’m even doing anything right. I consulted this article, which I know is science-based, but what is protocol analysis if not meta-analysis? I checked out and skimmed several different books from both the Kean and local library to figure out how to proceed from here. I really tried to hold it together and pick at it and stay positive, but it feels like I shot for the moon, and instead of landing amongst the stars, I’m floating in cold space depth. Alternatively, I’m seven and gazing through a telescope again, and my thesis is the star that’s a million and one lightyears away.

And yet, here we remain, with about a week and a half to my thesis presentation. I can be honest and admit I picked the week of Thanksgiving to present on purpose because I had my fingers crossed fewer folks would be coming to class. (It’s also because my family doesn’t celebrate and presenting that day wouldn’t be messing up anything out of the ordinary for me.)  

So, I guess that between the aggravation and unclear path forward, coupled with a looming presentation, this is why I’m on a three-on-five penalty kill. And it doesn’t look like that door is opening up anytime soon. 

I Have Scaled These City Walls, I Was Cold As A Stone

One of the cruelest ironies of life this past week was the fact that every time I drove home from school this week, I managed to catch, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” by U2 on the radio. Four different days, and three different stations. By Thursday, something in me just snapped. I mean, what the hell is this cosmic message supposed to be? A call to action? A sign everything will be OK? Another reminder of the time crunch I’m in? Sympathy from Bono himself? Two emotions Venn diagramed; anger and determination. Forensic linguistics lends itself quite well to detective work, which is the reason I found myself dabbling on the other side of the thesis world, in the creative writing universe. I’ll share it out in another blog post later this week, so it’ll also ease the embarrassment I feel about not posting at all last week, 

I’m Odds and Ends, But I’ll Be Stumbling Away

I feel like I just wrote a lot but had nothing meaningful to say. I feel slightly better, don’t get me wrong! I was able to address the story so far, somewhat from an outside perspective, and I put into perspective what is at stake in terms of my emotions and identity. Something has to come out of all this, right? 

Like a-ha, I’m slowly learning that life is OK. It’s another cruel irony of the radio on the way home, but as I parked across from the backdoor on Thursday, where the family-friendly sedan with a dent made by yours truly used to reside, “Take On Me,” in all its meme glory and annoying pop-ishness seemed like a sign of good times ahead. 

Catch you later this week!

Wind Me Up, Put Me Down

      You Can’t Stop Now, It’s Already Begun

I’ve basically had the same four songs on repeat this past week, and I’m sure we’ll cycle through all of them at various points in this blog post! I figured I’d start out strong, fast-paced, and with a tongue-in-cheek and juvenile delight with “Jerk It Out” by The Caesars being first. (Such a great running track!) I have at least one to three major assignments due across my classes every week through the end of the semester and other responsibilities, but of course, I found time to watch the Devils beat the Penguins Saturday night, flip to the Toronto Six and Boston Pride, and make strides on my work in other classes during the day and commercial breaks. I can’t wait for the Riveters season to start this upcoming weekend! The 50/50 weekend the Devils had definitely parallelled my life; when it comes to my schoolwork, I’m proud to say that I’m doing more than getting through it; I love what I’m doing, and I can see the growth occurring! 

It’s a stark contrast to last week, and admittedly, I’m still not fully back to where I was in terms of my confidence, and I’m not making enough actual thesis progress according to my standards, nor do I see getting to the point I want to reach occurring anytime soon, but I’m just happy that things are looking up, even in the most marginal sense. I have two out of the four major assignments for my Thursday class checked off my list and I’ve got a clear path for how to engage with everything else. This isn’t to say life is perfect; I’m still horrified by the ongoing situations with the Blackhawks and Penguins, and I’ve been a bit preoccupied with a wistful feeling that always comes around during the Hindu festival season. (Faith is something I struggle with quite a bit.)

As the end of the semester comes closer and the highest stakes possible, I’m weaving the most magnificent web of knowledge and understanding about myself and the world around me. Now, onto thesis things!

I’ve Been Holding On (But I Know Why!)

Keeping up the momentum, let’s put on “Holding On” by iann dior, and expand some musical horizons while we’re at it! (It’s probably not conventional thesis-ish music, but still! It’s pulling me to the finish line, and it’s definitely what things feel like right now!) I lied to myself quite a bit last week when I said I wouldn’t be thinking about my thesis as much or doing any more research; it just came in an unexpected form and brought a couple of things to light. Number one: no matter how hard I try to pull away from it, it sure seems like forensic linguistics is evident in everything I love. Number two: Everything in my life, academic or otherwise, is somehow comparable or related to hockey. And number three: somehow, things my Dad says to me, good or bad, always manage to stick around and relate to whatever I’m going through. In this case, it’s the comment from over the summer, about how I was emulating Miami Vice-era Don Johnson with my haircut. 

To start, I definitely took the “forensic” part of forensic linguistics to heart and decided to treat my thesis just like a crime scene that needed to be investigated, piece by piece. Thankfully, I mark up everything from PDFs to printouts, and my daily journaling fills in all the spaces between, so I decided to treat these artifacts as evidence, and as a forensic linguist would I examined everything for authenticity, patterns, and intent. Here are three of the key concerns that were conveyed via my research and external writing:

  1. Empathy 
  2. Frustration 
  3. Curiosity 

I analyzed my annotations further to see what sort of “academic yield” I could find, and thankfully, a lot of protocol analysis and discourse analysis is already being applied! With impatience and curiosity at the forefront, I started drawing a vast amount of connections to possible questions before remembering my promise and stepping off and doing something else, and this is the part where the hockey and Don Johnson connections set in. 

It just so happens that I remember writing into my research plans that I’d be looking into every avenue possible for research, including media and film depictions of forensic linguistics. (After all, the CSI effect has major real-life implications, and I’m well-read on the topic!) My gut was telling me that rather than the traditional series that started it all, I had to give the honor of starting out to the series set closest to home, CSI: NY. It’s been years since I last watched any episode of it, I recalled nothing, not even the cast, and guess who popped up in the opening credits that immediately had me thinking this is a sign something is going to turn out right? None other than one of my major childhood crushes, Eddie Cahill! He’s also where the hockey connection begins; he played Jim Craig, goalie for the men’s national team in the 1980s Winter Olympics in Lake Placid where the Miracle on Ice took place, in the definitive film of my childhood, Miracle. Anyways, I found four instances of forensic linguistics within the first five episodes, not counting the interview/interrogation scenes, and I was off! I found myself once again treating my thesis as an investigation, and I believe I’ve found a viable question, and yet another angle to look at forensic linguistics from. 

  1.  How would I practice forensic linguistics, interviewing, etc. as a professional?
  2. How would I teach this? 

And that was when it hit me! I may not be a teacher now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t design a course! After all, a mark of your own learning is when you can construct a way to convey knowledge to others, so here are my proposed ideas for a final project: 

  1. A course outline, bibliography, and syllabus, supplemented by a literature review, proposal, and other necessary documents
  2. An online resource that guides others through the faucets of forensic linguistics
  3. I can’t write it out, but I know what I’m thinking of! 

Also, I am breaking ground on all my other required items for this class, so here’s to greener pastures ahead! 

Oh, and as far as how the Don Johnson comparison relates, I guess I feel like I look pretty good right now!

Never Is Enough, Thinking About the Things I’ve Done

Sticking with iann dior, let’s listen to “Never Is Enough.” After all, it feels like I’ll never do enough to either beat imposter syndrome or engage with forensic linguistics. With Research Days coming up, I figure I can further my inquiry of forensic linguistics by examining and explicating the CSI effect, or overall consequences of pop culture depictions of forensic linguistics and interviewing in general to the Kean community. 

What’s There to Cry About?

On another unrelated thesis note, I registered for my final course for the M.A. program, the second half of this thesis process. It’s futile to ask where the time went, and I already know what my answer would be if someone asked if it was worth it. My future is uncertain, but for now, it’s time to listen to “Twenty Something” by nightly, and just not freak out!

Wind Me Up, Put Me Down

      You Can’t Stop Now, It’s Already Begun

I’ve basically had the same four songs on repeat this past week, and I’m sure we’ll cycle through all of them at various points in this blog post! I figured I’d start out strong, fast-paced, and with a tongue-in-cheek and juvenile delight with “Jerk It Out” by The Caesars being first. (Such a great running track!) I have at least one to three major assignments due across my classes every week through the end of the semester and other responsibilities, but of course, I found time to watch the Devils beat the Penguins Saturday night, flip to the Toronto Six and Boston Pride, and make strides on my work in other classes during the day and commercial breaks. I can’t wait for the Riveters season to start this upcoming weekend! The 50/50 weekend the Devils had definitely parallelled my life; when it comes to my schoolwork, I’m proud to say that I’m doing more than getting through it; I love what I’m doing, and I can see the growth occurring! 

It’s a stark contrast to last week, and admittedly, I’m still not fully back to where I was in terms of my confidence, and I’m not making enough actual thesis progress according to my standards, nor do I see getting to the point I want to reach occurring anytime soon, but I’m just happy that things are looking up, even in the most marginal sense. I have two out of the four major assignments for my Thursday class checked off my list and I’ve got a clear path for how to engage with everything else. This isn’t to say life is perfect; I’m still horrified by the ongoing situations with the Blackhawks and Penguins, and I’ve been a bit preoccupied with a wistful feeling that always comes around during the Hindu festival season. (Faith is something I struggle with quite a bit.)

As the end of the semester comes closer and the highest stakes possible, I’m weaving the most magnificent web of knowledge and understanding about myself and the world around me. Now, onto thesis things!

I’ve Been Holding On (But I Know Why!)

Keeping up the momentum, let’s put on “Holding On” by iann dior, and expand some musical horizons while we’re at it! (It’s probably not conventional thesis-ish music, but still! It’s pulling me to the finish line, and it’s definitely what things feel like right now!) I lied to myself quite a bit last week when I said I wouldn’t be thinking about my thesis as much or doing any more research; it just came in an unexpected form and brought a couple of things to light. Number one: no matter how hard I try to pull away from it, it sure seems like forensic linguistics is evident in everything I love. Number two: Everything in my life, academic or otherwise, is somehow comparable or related to hockey. And number three: somehow, things my Dad says to me, good or bad, always manage to stick around and relate to whatever I’m going through. In this case, it’s the comment from over the summer, about how I was emulating Miami Vice-era Don Johnson with my haircut. 

To start, I definitely took the “forensic” part of forensic linguistics to heart and decided to treat my thesis just like a crime scene that needed to be investigated, piece by piece. Thankfully, I mark up everything from PDFs to printouts, and my daily journaling fills in all the spaces between, so I decided to treat these artifacts as evidence, and as a forensic linguist would I examined everything for authenticity, patterns, and intent. Here are three of the key concerns that were conveyed via my research and external writing:

  1. Empathy 
  2. Frustration 
  3. Curiosity 

I analyzed my annotations further to see what sort of “academic yield” I could find, and thankfully, a lot of protocol analysis and discourse analysis is already being applied! With impatience and curiosity at the forefront, I started drawing a vast amount of connections to possible questions before remembering my promise and stepping off and doing something else, and this is the part where the hockey and Don Johnson connections set in. 

It just so happens that I remember writing into my research plans that I’d be looking into every avenue possible for research, including media and film depictions of forensic linguistics. (After all, the CSI effect has major real-life implications, and I’m well-read on the topic!) My gut was telling me that rather than the traditional series that started it all, I had to give the honor of starting out to the series set closest to home, CSI: NY. It’s been years since I last watched any episode of it, I recalled nothing, not even the cast, and guess who popped up in the opening credits that immediately had me thinking this is a sign something is going to turn out right? None other than one of my major childhood crushes, Eddie Cahill! He’s also where the hockey connection begins; he played Jim Craig, goalie for the men’s national team in the 1980s Winter Olympics in Lake Placid where the Miracle on Ice took place, in the definitive film of my childhood, Miracle. Anyways, I found four instances of forensic linguistics within the first five episodes, not counting the interview/interrogation scenes, and I was off! I found myself once again treating my thesis as an investigation, and I believe I’ve found a viable question, and yet another angle to look at forensic linguistics from. 

  1.  How would I practice forensic linguistics, interviewing, etc. as a professional?
  2. How would I teach this? 

And that was when it hit me! I may not be a teacher now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t design a course! After all, a mark of your own learning is when you can construct a way to convey knowledge to others, so here are my proposed ideas for a final project: 

  1. A course outline, bibliography, and syllabus, supplemented by a literature review, proposal, and other necessary documents
  2. An online resource that guides others through the faucets of forensic linguistics
  3. I can’t write it out, but I know what I’m thinking of! 

Also, I am breaking ground on all my other required items for this class, so here’s to greener pastures ahead! 

Oh, and as far as how the Don Johnson comparison relates, I guess I feel like I look pretty good right now!

Never Is Enough, Thinking About the Things I’ve Done

Sticking with iann dior, let’s listen to “Never Is Enough.” After all, it feels like I’ll never do enough to either beat imposter syndrome or engage with forensic linguistics. With Research Days coming up, I figure I can further my inquiry of forensic linguistics by examining and explicating the CSI effect, or overall consequences of pop culture depictions of forensic linguistics and interviewing in general to the Kean community. 

What’s There to Cry About?

On another unrelated thesis note, I registered for my final course for the M.A. program, the second half of this thesis process. It’s futile to ask where the time went, and I already know what my answer would be if someone asked if it was worth it. My future is uncertain, but for now, it’s time to listen to “Twenty Something” by nightly, and just not freak out!

Cry A Little Less, Laugh a Little More!

“One thing I hate is people screaming at me. If you want me to do something, just talk to me.” – Mario Lemieux 

It’s Time To Focus In On Where I Go From Here

It’s about the mid-way point of the semester, and boy, am I feeling it! Despite the doozy of a blog post from last week, I actually dropped the ball in just about every area of my life; I wasn’t eating or sleeping well, I wasn’t as kind as I possibly could have been to people, I wasn’t efficient enough with my work, and I had a few instances of academic turmoil that I’m still reeling from, but also recognize I cannot change. This isn’t normally how I handle things, and it’s hard to dissect there’s no threshold of responsibilities you need to reach to warrant feeling stressed and on some level, defeated. It’s hard to live up to the expectations you set for yourself, let alone those others have for you.

I did find some bright patches in all of this turmoil! This past week, I honored an age-old tradition my Dad and I have of playing the Tim McGraw song “My Next Thirty Years” on his birthday; the song is from an album that came out the year I was born, and it’s a whimsical number, especially to him considering his age. One of the nice things about your parents getting older is that they also start to get a little more sentimental, and hearing some of the stuff my Dad had to say about his life thus far definitely provided me with a sense of closure for some things, and a whole new list of questions for myself and my future, some of which are proving invaluable to this thesis development, and who I am as a person. Two of my friends also celebrated birthdays this week, and I saw the Devils yet again fall to the Capitals but triumph over Buffalo, who have surprisingly been off to a strong start this season, and then fall tonight to the Flames. And so, the world continues to turn.

But, as I was tasked at the end of thesis class last week to synthesize all my research and figure out what is the question I want to ask, I found that to be the most cumbersome task this thesis has asked of me thus far, and I’m not exaggerating when I say tears were shed over this specifically. I know why I’m interested in forensic linguistics. I know what gets under my skin about the field. I know who I’m researching and writing this thesis for. I know my initial line of inquiry was turned away for being more of a dissertation and less of a thesis, and that frustrated me to no end. (It also killed some of my confidence in myself.) Isn’t a dissertation like a longer version of a thesis, therefore validating my line of inquiry? (I’m not trying to degrade dissertations or pretend I know a ton about them, but this is what initially went through my mind.) And if I’m asking a dissertation-worthy question and keep hacking at it research-wise, doesn’t that mean I’m also on a trajectory to answer it, or at least explore it? Why can’t my thesis be a stepping stone on a larger path? What am I lacking? One thought ran circles through my mind; the TikTok audio that asks Am I…dumb?

 I spent a lot of the past week getting screamed at and screaming at myself, both literally and metaphorically, and amazingly enough, it accomplished nothing! Seeing everyone else getting the ball rolling or keeping it going on their projects had me feeling even worse, and I nearly slipped into the worst cycle possible; learned helplessness brought on by social comparison. But, who am I if not the kid of the guy who did everything on his own schedule, whether it was two years or two decades later than the norm, and accomplished his goals when no one else believed because it was on his own terms? Re-assessing the situation, I found that I’m not in as bad shape as previously believed; I’ve already created a substantial annotated bibliography, I’ve basically drafted the bulk of my literature review, proved a profound understanding of my topic to myself and others, and a stable understanding of adjacent topics and fields of study. 

 I read, and read, and re-read, and annotated my little heart out, and I still feel like I have perspective but no clear answers, or so it seems. It’s complicated, and I hope I can give you a concise answer for what my question is, and what this thesis will be, or at least something that gets you thinking, but for now, I recommend buckling up and getting ready for yet another journey through the thesis progress! 

I’ll Try to Think About the Last Time I Had A Good Time

Trying to figure out what I’m looking for with this thesis sure is reminiscent of being a kid and knowing that something major, in a negative way, is going on either at school or at home, and no one wants to clue you in because they think you can’t handle the news, and all the adults in your life look at you with pity. It makes “I’m Just a Kid” by Simple Plan the perfect accompanying soundtrack to this section. (Also, life is a nightmare at the moment.) As stated above, I spent the past week going through what I already have in terms of research and annotations, while adding in some fresh information and found myself once again being drawn to that dissertation question, even though I know it isn’t what I need. The outline I included in my last blog post was another good resource, but another intellectual cul-de-sac. 

I can say in earnest that yes, it feels like my thesis project is haunting me; I connect everything I’m doing in other classes to my concept, and I can’t shake the feeling that it may just be the most important thing in my life for a while. It isn’t so much an all-or-nothing mentality that surrounds it for me as it is a time-is-of-the-essence sort of complex. I’ve thought about doing a creative piece and this looming presence the project has taken on is making me think it’s time for a mystery novella, but I know that isn’t what I really want, and I refuse to take an easy out. I analyzed everything this week from the gaze of a forensic linguist, ranging from how my classmates spoke in class to my own text messages and writing. I could create a satirical handbook regarding how to apply these methods to blend humor and practicality, but again, something is missing there. E-lit, which I love, is also out for the time being because as I realized when I was running and saw a teardrop of frustration go flying, it doesn’t matter what I pick as a medium if I don’t even have a question. Also, why am I pushing myself so hard to add a creative angle? There’s nothing embarrassing about admitting that yes, I love research, I understand the process and terminology, and both the design and actual experimentation and collections are some of my key strengths as a writer and academic. It’s instinctual. I can already thread together the bare bones of a mixed-methods qualitative case study and protocol analysis based look at the field of forensic linguistics from its genesis to now, but it’s all weaving together around the question I can’t have, of why it is that linguistic evidence is not held to the same pedigree as physical evidence unless it is for the purpose of establishing guilt, especially in situations where there are several intersectional factors in play as well. Time is the one thing I don’t have too much of, and yet it’s the one thing I need to rework my research design around a new question. If I go this route, it’s more of a reduce-reuse-recycle scenario than it is a landfill dumping. 

Completing this thesis is more than a requirement or springboard into a career for me; I want this to be something meaningful beyond the people who see it in this program. I want it to be able to stand on its own, without me having to constantly explain and prop up what the premise and importance of it is. But with my confidence shot, I feel like a stickshift 1987 Chevy Chevette with a timing belt that’s slipping and a clutch that is stuck, just waiting to stall in the shoulder. 

Going back to Wednesday night, my Dad made a comment off-hand about what it took to become the person I know him as today on the way home. One of the biggest things my Dad has always emphasized to me that I respect and appreciate is the sheer amount of mistakes he’s made throughout his life, and how some, but not all, have been defined him. Of course, I won’t share any of those with you, because I know he won’t like that! But when I hit a low and massive wall like I did this past week, hearing him be vulnerable about what it felt like to be behind or inadequate in regards to something more profound than a thesis is what struck a chord with me. There’s something bizarrely comforting about knowing that no matter how old you get, you never figure it all out, and it’s that mysterious space where you live the best parts of your life. And it inspired me to realize something: It’s my project, just like it was his life! So here’s what I’m planning:

  1. I’m not going to conscientiously think about what I want my question to be at all for the bulk of this week.
  2. I’m not going to think about what approach and medium I want this project to take on for the bulk of this week. 
    1. I’m not looking to get myself worked up again, and my gut tells me I’ll know soon enough, but right now just isn’t the time to know. 
  3. I’m not going to add to or subtract anything from the research and annotations I have already compiled.
  4. I am going to continue revising the formatting of my annotated bibliography. 
  5. I will work on the parts of my literature review that I can with everything I have already. 
  6. I will work on the applicable parts of my early project proposal. 
  7. I am going to find a better way to split my time to account for my student government responsibilities, the Rwandan genocide research paper, group presentation, and pop quizzes in Conflict Resolution, prep myself for the upcoming test, country report, position paper, and project in World Englishes, and round out my draft for the short position paper, conclude the work on my presentation and start working on what I know is going to be my final project for Lang. of Racial/Ethnic ID. (I can put the other assignments off for a bit.) 
    1. I’m not writing all of this out to prove how busy I am, but by seeing everything I need to take care of mapped out in front of me, and knowing I’ve seen the connections forensic linguistics holds to it before, it’s another way to figure out the focal question for my thesis without being overly conscientious, and succeeding in other areas of my life at the same time. Yet another tandem, if you will! 
  8. Health is going to be a priority, no matter what.
    1. Sleep is most definitely a target area. 

Regaining my confidence won’t happen overnight, but I’m the only one who can make the attempt, and this seems like one way to get there. 

Carve Your Name Into Those Shining Stars

I know I say it a lot, but I don’t think I can ever say thank you to my Dad enough. I literally owe my life and existence to the guy, and I know that the older I get, the more I want to be just like him but better. (I don’t see myself ever being a parent, but if that somehow happens, I’m going to try my best to be what he was to me!) The heading for this ending piece is not only what I hope to do with this project and my life in general, but it’s a lyric from “The Nights” by Avicii, a song I can never tire of. (Also, good on the Carolina Hurricanes for using it as a goal song!) I just plan to experience life for the next week, with no guilt over the unknown. And in regards to the quote above from one of the greatest to ever play the game, I’m sticking to that sentiment, and I’m not going to scream at myself to figure everything out on expert mode.

And just when it seems like all the pieces of a thesis and its author are about to break apart, they come together! (If you know what movie I love, live by, and reworked this line from, I like you! Have a cupcake!) See you next week!

Cry A Little Less, Laugh a Little More!

“One thing I hate is people screaming at me. If you want me to do something, just talk to me.” – Mario Lemieux 

It’s Time To Focus In On Where I Go From Here

It’s about the mid-way point of the semester, and boy, am I feeling it! Despite the doozy of a blog post from last week, I actually dropped the ball in just about every area of my life; I wasn’t eating or sleeping well, I wasn’t as kind as I possibly could have been to people, I wasn’t efficient enough with my work, and I had a few instances of academic turmoil that I’m still reeling from, but also recognize I cannot change. This isn’t normally how I handle things, and it’s hard to dissect there’s no threshold of responsibilities you need to reach to warrant feeling stressed and on some level, defeated. It’s hard to live up to the expectations you set for yourself, let alone those others have for you.

I did find some bright patches in all of this turmoil! This past week, I honored an age-old tradition my Dad and I have of playing the Tim McGraw song “My Next Thirty Years” on his birthday; the song is from an album that came out the year I was born, and it’s a whimsical number, especially to him considering his age. One of the nice things about your parents getting older is that they also start to get a little more sentimental, and hearing some of the stuff my Dad had to say about his life thus far definitely provided me with a sense of closure for some things, and a whole new list of questions for myself and my future, some of which are proving invaluable to this thesis development, and who I am as a person. Two of my friends also celebrated birthdays this week, and I saw the Devils yet again fall to the Capitals but triumph over Buffalo, who have surprisingly been off to a strong start this season, and then fall tonight to the Flames. And so, the world continues to turn.

But, as I was tasked at the end of thesis class last week to synthesize all my research and figure out what is the question I want to ask, I found that to be the most cumbersome task this thesis has asked of me thus far, and I’m not exaggerating when I say tears were shed over this specifically. I know why I’m interested in forensic linguistics. I know what gets under my skin about the field. I know who I’m researching and writing this thesis for. I know my initial line of inquiry was turned away for being more of a dissertation and less of a thesis, and that frustrated me to no end. (It also killed some of my confidence in myself.) Isn’t a dissertation like a longer version of a thesis, therefore validating my line of inquiry? (I’m not trying to degrade dissertations or pretend I know a ton about them, but this is what initially went through my mind.) And if I’m asking a dissertation-worthy question and keep hacking at it research-wise, doesn’t that mean I’m also on a trajectory to answer it, or at least explore it? Why can’t my thesis be a stepping stone on a larger path? What am I lacking? One thought ran circles through my mind; the TikTok audio that asks Am I…dumb?

 I spent a lot of the past week getting screamed at and screaming at myself, both literally and metaphorically, and amazingly enough, it accomplished nothing! Seeing everyone else getting the ball rolling or keeping it going on their projects had me feeling even worse, and I nearly slipped into the worst cycle possible; learned helplessness brought on by social comparison. But, who am I if not the kid of the guy who did everything on his own schedule, whether it was two years or two decades later than the norm, and accomplished his goals when no one else believed because it was on his own terms? Re-assessing the situation, I found that I’m not in as bad shape as previously believed; I’ve already created a substantial annotated bibliography, I’ve basically drafted the bulk of my literature review, proved a profound understanding of my topic to myself and others, and a stable understanding of adjacent topics and fields of study. 

 I read, and read, and re-read, and annotated my little heart out, and I still feel like I have perspective but no clear answers, or so it seems. It’s complicated, and I hope I can give you a concise answer for what my question is, and what this thesis will be, or at least something that gets you thinking, but for now, I recommend buckling up and getting ready for yet another journey through the thesis progress! 

I’ll Try to Think About the Last Time I Had A Good Time

Trying to figure out what I’m looking for with this thesis sure is reminiscent of being a kid and knowing that something major, in a negative way, is going on either at school or at home, and no one wants to clue you in because they think you can’t handle the news, and all the adults in your life look at you with pity. It makes “I’m Just a Kid” by Simple Plan the perfect accompanying soundtrack to this section. (Also, life is a nightmare at the moment.) As stated above, I spent the past week going through what I already have in terms of research and annotations, while adding in some fresh information and found myself once again being drawn to that dissertation question, even though I know it isn’t what I need. The outline I included in my last blog post was another good resource, but another intellectual cul-de-sac. 

I can say in earnest that yes, it feels like my thesis project is haunting me; I connect everything I’m doing in other classes to my concept, and I can’t shake the feeling that it may just be the most important thing in my life for a while. It isn’t so much an all-or-nothing mentality that surrounds it for me as it is a time-is-of-the-essence sort of complex. I’ve thought about doing a creative piece and this looming presence the project has taken on is making me think it’s time for a mystery novella, but I know that isn’t what I really want, and I refuse to take an easy out. I analyzed everything this week from the gaze of a forensic linguist, ranging from how my classmates spoke in class to my own text messages and writing. I could create a satirical handbook regarding how to apply these methods to blend humor and practicality, but again, something is missing there. E-lit, which I love, is also out for the time being because as I realized when I was running and saw a teardrop of frustration go flying, it doesn’t matter what I pick as a medium if I don’t even have a question. Also, why am I pushing myself so hard to add a creative angle? There’s nothing embarrassing about admitting that yes, I love research, I understand the process and terminology, and both the design and actual experimentation and collections are some of my key strengths as a writer and academic. It’s instinctual. I can already thread together the bare bones of a mixed-methods qualitative case study and protocol analysis based look at the field of forensic linguistics from its genesis to now, but it’s all weaving together around the question I can’t have, of why it is that linguistic evidence is not held to the same pedigree as physical evidence unless it is for the purpose of establishing guilt, especially in situations where there are several intersectional factors in play as well. Time is the one thing I don’t have too much of, and yet it’s the one thing I need to rework my research design around a new question. If I go this route, it’s more of a reduce-reuse-recycle scenario than it is a landfill dumping. 

Completing this thesis is more than a requirement or springboard into a career for me; I want this to be something meaningful beyond the people who see it in this program. I want it to be able to stand on its own, without me having to constantly explain and prop up what the premise and importance of it is. But with my confidence shot, I feel like a stickshift 1987 Chevy Chevette with a timing belt that’s slipping and a clutch that is stuck, just waiting to stall in the shoulder. 

Going back to Wednesday night, my Dad made a comment off-hand about what it took to become the person I know him as today on the way home. One of the biggest things my Dad has always emphasized to me that I respect and appreciate is the sheer amount of mistakes he’s made throughout his life, and how some, but not all, have defined him. Of course, I won’t share any of those with you, because I know he won’t like that! But when I hit a low and massive wall like I did this past week, hearing him be vulnerable about what it felt like to be behind or inadequate in regards to something more profound than a thesis is what struck a chord with me. There’s something bizarrely comforting about knowing that no matter how old you get, you never figure it all out, and it’s that mysterious space where you live the best parts of your life. And it inspired me to realize something: It’s my project, just like it was his life! So here’s what I’m planning:

  1. I’m not going to conscientiously think about what I want my question to be at all for the bulk of this week.
  2. I’m not going to think about what approach and medium I want this project to take on for the bulk of this week. 
    1. I’m not looking to get myself worked up again, and my gut tells me I’ll know soon enough, but right now just isn’t the time to know. 
  3. I’m not going to add to or subtract anything from the research and annotations I have already compiled.
  4. I am going to continue revising the formatting of my annotated bibliography. 
  5. I will work on the parts of my literature review that I can with everything I have already. 
    1. Dr. Nelson was kind enough to lend me a few resources about how to tackle a lit. review, and seeing it framed as “academic storytelling” is making this a more palatable, and dare I say it, fun task to work through.
  6. I will work on the applicable parts of my early project proposal. 
  7. I am going to find a better way to split my time to account for my student government responsibilities, the Rwandan genocide research paper, group presentation, and pop quizzes in Conflict Resolution, prep myself for the upcoming test, country report, position paper, and project in World Englishes, and round out my draft for the short position paper, conclude the work on my presentation and start working on what I know is going to be my final project for Lang. of Racial/Ethnic ID. (I can put the other assignments off for a bit.) 
    1. I’m not writing all of this out to prove how busy I am, but by seeing everything I need to take care of mapped out in front of me, and knowing I’ve seen the connections forensic linguistics holds to it before, it’s another way to figure out the focal question for my thesis without being overly conscientious, and succeeding in other areas of my life at the same time. Yet another tandem, if you will! 
  8. Health is going to be a priority, no matter what.
    1. Sleep is most definitely a target area. 

Regaining my confidence won’t happen overnight, but I’m the only one who can make the attempt, and this seems like one way to get there. 

Carve Your Name Into Those Shining Stars

I know I say it a lot, but I don’t think I can ever say thank you to my Dad enough. I literally owe my life and existence to the guy, and I know that the older I get, the more I want to be just like him but better. (I don’t see myself ever being a parent, but if that somehow happens, I’m going to try my best to be what he was to me!) The heading for this ending piece is not only what I hope to do with this project and my life in general, but it’s a lyric from “The Nights” by Avicii, a song I can never tire of. (Also, good on the Carolina Hurricanes for using it as a goal song!) I just plan to experience life for the next week, with no guilt over the unknown. And in regards to the quote above from one of the greatest to ever play the game, I’m sticking to that sentiment, and I’m not going to scream at myself to figure everything out on expert mode.

And just when it seems like all the pieces of a thesis and its author are about to break apart, they come together! (If you know what movie I love, live by, and reworked this line from, I like you! Have a cupcake!) See you next week!

Two or Three Minutes, Two or Three Hours

“The highest compliment you can pay me is that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.” – Wayne Gretzky 

A Brief Introduction

Let me start this blog with one of the most awe-striking and inspiring things I can share with you that has happened since our last class meeting; the New Jersey Devils started their season with a massive, heart-pounding, and invigorating overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, setting a record for the quickest goal ever scored in a season-opening game in the process! (The childlike excitement of opening nights, and every game thereafter never goes away! I can feel my face splitting into a grin just typing this!) Between the excitement of one event and being sidelined with allergies this weekend, I guess you could say I binged on my thesis work this weekend, and there’s not only a sense of clarity but so much more investment on my part to keep the momentum and meaning going! I should also make it clear that I think headings are going to become a staple of my blog posts from here on out; it’s mainly an organizational tactic to make sure all my bases are covered and labeled clearly, and it’s also for the aesthetic that comes with the outline sidebar on Google Docs. 

There’s a whole soundtrack that goes along with this post, so I’ll let you choose between starting with either “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, “Spirits – Sondr Remix” by The Strumbellas, or “Bo Exotic” by Turbo, and then going to one of the others. 

Thesis Progress 

The Research Side 

From the research perspective, I am situated right where I want to be for this moment in the semester. I have amassed just about 16 solid peer-reviewed articles taken from databases, an array of newspaper clippings that span from the genesis of forensic linguistics in the late 1960s to the present day detailing either implicitly or explicitly the presence of forensic linguistics, three podcasts in their entirety and various assorted episodes of others, a handful of documentaries, and a few more books that I am currently working through reading and marking up. (Thank you to Dr. Fall, if you are reading this, for giving me a godsend with Word Crimes! I found it in digital form for free through Kean! Still working on the Routledge Handbook.) The research I have thus far covers a couple of categories: written evidence analysis(both the spoken evidence analysis (interviews and otherwise) and the complexities that come with recorded or digitally enhanced forensic linguistic analysis.

Assessing what I have so far, I recognize that there is a need for more articles that highlight the genesis and evolution of the field, rather than just the application and implication, and this will be my focus for the upcoming week. (I say week, but I have the Learning Commons popped open in another tab, and I know that the texts I am thumbing through have material that is suitable for this purpose.) Additionally, I am interested in looking into the nature of police investigation and interrogation techniques, and the tandem of linguistic, psychological, and sociological factors, issues, and implications embedded within them. (I figure this is enriching information for my project, and even if I don’t end up having a need for it, just in general.) Thus far, my starting point is two books I’ve rented in digital form from the school library, a handful of podcast pieces, and some journal articles I have left over from my forensic psychology class from my undergraduate minor. An avenue I could take to finding solid sources on this sub-topic would be to find some way to retrieve the syllabus with all the linked articles, if possible, or reach out to the professor directly. I could supplement this plan with targeted database searches and continuously sifting through podcasts.

Something paramount to finding a beginning, and serving as an origin or sounding board when I do get stuck in a loop has been looking at forensic linguistics-based graduate programs across the country, and running a marathon through any readily available syllabi, recommended resources on program websites, and sifting through the related resources and articles that then appear within databases. (This process is also giving me further education and career goals and dreams, but that’s a whole different ballpark!)

I have also looked into adjacent subjects and fields to bolster my research, including corpus linguistics, or the practice of amassing large bodies of “real-life” language stored in computer databases and utilizing it for researching trends, shifts, and other noteworthy linguistic phenomena. The purpose of going a bit offside is two-fold; one, this is a field I am familiar with thanks to the work I completed in Dr. Nelson’s course, which means I have ample understanding and some sources in the bank, and two, I am starting to see a connection between the two fields, in the sense that with so much of forensic linguistics moving into the virtual realm, the overlap between that and corpus linguistics is about to Venn diagram. Also, corpus linguistics is taking root in the legal world, which is critical to explicating the necessity of forensic linguistics.

(I’m beginning to seriously consider submitting an application for Research Days, because this is something I think people will be interested in once it is brought to their attention, and it is good motivation!)  

To further clarify what my research is shaping up to look like, here’s a quick outline of the moving components for each category/subcategory and some brief rationales and descriptions! (Let me know if you think it is too much, not enough, or needs something else, like a plan for how to integrate everything or more cowbell!)

  1. Forensic Linguistics 
    1. Genesis and History of Forensic Linguistics 
    2. Categories of Forensic Linguistics/Areas of Application
      1. Written Evidence Analysis 
        1. Offshoot of discourse analysis – examining language construction, syntax, phonological structure, etc. 
          1. Can be either digital or handwritten 
          2. Handwritten instances offer potential to branch into forensic stenography – signature/handwriting analysis, forgery investigations, writing under duress, etc. 
            1. Sources/Research that Relate to this area of application 
  • ransom notes, forgery, contract disputes, blackmail, suicide note analysis, journal entries examination, etc. 
  1. Impact – Authorship, intent, and patterns of behavior can be established through analysis of writing, social media activity, etc. 
  1. Spoken Word Analysis 
    1. Heavy on Discourse Theory and Analysis
      1. Deals with issues of linguistic bias, linguistic profiling, the need for cultural sensitivity, etc. 
      2. Presents itself in eyewitness accounts, interviews, testimony, etc.
      3. Brings to light the question of how linguistic bias is often counted over actual forensic linguistic application, and how it has contributed to wrongful incarceration, coerced false confessions, etc. 
  2. Digital Evidence Analysis 
    1. Ties back into written analysis in a way 
      1. Examining the digital interpersonal communication between individuals can discern knowledge, patterns, responsibility, etc. 
        1. Examination can also lead to uncovering rings of other involvement, can highlight deceptive linguistic tactics used to hide authorship/mimic the speech of others (ex. “Deep fakes”)
      2. Is a component of what connects forensic linguistics to corpus linguistics
    2. Computer-Based Forensic Linguistic Analysis 
      1. As algorithms become more refined and are employed by both scientists and those in the criminal justice system alike, how will this change the field and the outcomes of individuals?
  3. Enhanced Audio Evidence 
    1. Speaker Identification 
      1. In a recorded instance, such as a wiretap (see The Wire for reference or cases that involve 911 call analysis)
    2. Linguistic Profiling and Speech Pattern Recognition
  1. Other Instances of Forensic Linguistics 
    1. Police Interviews/Interrogations + Tactics
    2. Eyewitness Accounts
    3. Courtroom Testimonies + Jury Deliberation 
  2. Implications (Legal, Psychological, etc.)
  3. Gaps/Issues in the Field 
    1. Cultural Sensitivity 
    2. Police Training 
    3. Perception and Evaluation of Linguistic Evidence 
    4. Jury/Judicial Linguistic Bias
    5. Effect of Media Portrayal 
      1. Optional to pursue, but still important as the expectations set by TV or media portrayals of the field may yield real-life implications (CSI effect) 
  1. Corpus Linguistics 
    1. Overview/Genesis
    2. Connection to Digital Forensic Linguistics
    3. Connection to Trends in Eyewitness Accounts/Jury Deliberations
  2. Methodology/Analysis 
    1. Discourse Analysis 
    2. Protocol Analysis 

The Creative Side (If There is One and Time for It)

Why Is This Needed? What Will It Be?

With the scope of my project and everything outlined above, a research paper or a deeper delve into the field of forensic linguistics seems like what I’m aiming for, or would at least be the easiest route to travel, given the time constraints of these pesky little things called semesters. Yet, I find myself drawn to wanting to do both because as I am beginning to find, my brain really likes the word tandem (years of being a hockey fan, I suppose) and as such, even my thesis has to be a tandem project of both research and creativity. All the research I have done thus far would have been necessary for a creative piece, and even if it isn’t for this course, I know the opportunity to convert everything I know into a study or analysis is a possibility! (Also, I’m really considering forensic linguistics as a career path going forward, so it doesn’t hurt getting as familiar with it as I possibly can!) Plus, it’s a challenge for me! I get to play both time management and meeting academic deadlines and standards on expert mode, and I love that! 

As multifaceted as it is as a field, forensic linguistics also offers a wealth of creative writing ideas; it could be a screenplay or script for a TV show episode (which reminds me, I need to sit down and watch  NYPD Blue and find the paper that analyzes its use of forensic linguistics!), material for a podcast, a short story, a whole novel, an interactive story, or an e-lit piece. Currently, I am leaning towards incorporating some of the core elements of forensic linguistics that interest me and crafting a handful of short stories that detail just how much of a role forensic linguistics plays in different settings, as outlined above, while also highlighting the emerging and pressing issues of inequities and bias. I can change the cast of characters every time, and I can further delve into sub-categories of forensic work, such as forensic stenography or forensic audiology this way, without the messiness of trying to work these concepts into a research paper may entail. 

So, I guess to give you a quick recap: Yes, there is research that has occurred and remains ongoing, comprised of several areas of interest and key concepts. Simultaneously, there are plans to begin writing informed short stories that not only synthesize several aspects of the completed research but highlight important issues within the field and offer, in a fictitious setting, workarounds, and solutions. The latter is to be determined, depending on time constraints. 

Setting Goals For Progress

Where Is This Going?

I’m guessing that by now, the three songs from earlier have definitely run their course, so put on “Let’s Work Together” by Dwight Yoakam since that’s essentially the spirit both sides of this project happen to be taking on! 

It always comes back to research first, and it’s a matter of first clearing out everything on my digital library loan bookshelf. I have twenty-one days to comb through the four books I have checked out, and I plan to tackle this systemically. I will first take a look through the table of content, select two chapters from each, and proceed to first skim, and then read and annotate if it proves to be fruitful. Word Crimes is the one text I plan to read in its entirety for the emphasis it places on issues of equity, the fact that it is a leading contemporary text in the field, and for the personal enrichment it will bring. Following this, I will finish out the remaining podcasts in my queue with associated notes and then reload with podcasts around the topics of police interviewing training, false and coerced confessions, and corpus linguistics.

When it comes to the methods of analysis, I have a solid understanding and amount of sources to support my rationale for the particular methodologies and their application ready from my work in Dr. Nelson’s class, so this is not a priority at the moment.

I have already created a Google Drive folder with PDFs for the bulk of my sources in the form of articles and some newspaper articles and will continue tidying up and integrating my annotations for each article, as well as podcast episodes into this same folder, and create a separate space on my website to round out the idea of a “public literature review” or research project coming to life. In addition to this, I have a running bibliography page, all in APA 7 format, as that is what I am most comfortable with. (Also because my other courses are requiring it and it’s easier on my brain.) 

To achieve these goals, I am going to have to carve out at least two hours a day for thesis work, which I know I can do, though I’m not sure where I’m going to gain the two hours from just yet. I also plan to use my weekends for the part of my research that may or may not be necessary; the media portrayal of forensic linguistics. (It’s a reason to watch TV and think critically about it without being a “nerd” who “can’t stop thinking about school-related things.”)

On the creative side of things, there is going to be a synthesis of the completed research to discern points of interest, importance, and concern, and much more brainstorming must be done before any writing commences. I’m setting a deadline for two weeks from now for there to be a separate Google Drive folder created for the creative component that includes the following: a solid rationale for why this portion of my thesis is necessary, a graphic organizer for each component of forensic linguistics I hope to cover in my short stories, and a rough outline of the first story of what I hope is many. 

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself 

For the first time last week, I had someone outside my circle of classmates, friends, and family ask me the questions I think everyone needs to revisit as their project and passion continues to grow: Why this topic, and what are you hoping to learn from it, or do with it? Why should other people even care about forensic linguistics? And in the sections below, I hope to explicate just that, if only briefly. 

Why Am I Interested in This? 

My interest in the topic was born, in part, out of my inherent interest in the CSI TV series and franchise, as it showed that there is so much more to the trial and prosecution of individuals than just arrests and trials, and there were several instances where the specific language was used in interviews that the characters knew would connect with the suspect or instances where handwriting, digital files, or audio were examined as evidence just as critical as a fingerprint. From that point forward, I knew that there was a way to utilize my love of language and ability to deconstruct and identify meanings, patterns, and intent for something monumental. 

The work that forensic linguistics entails can quite literally change the trajectory of someone’s life; admissions of guilt can be proven to be coerced or misinterpreted, intent in language can be reframed as innocence, and testimony can be shredded or bolstered. Behind each exchange of words, there is an intent, malicious or not, and there is an interpretation that deserves to be recognized and examined. 

Who Am I Doing This For?

First and foremost, I’m engaged in the field of forensic linguistics to bring justice to those who are denied; those with the dialects deemed “inferior” “unreliable” “uneducated” “twangy” or any other derogatory term. There’s a correlation between those who are denied justice and those who are told that their language is a damning factor for them. I do this for those who have proven that they have intentions to harm others, who have established those patterns, and to bring them to justice as well. 

In terms of why I leave myself semi-vulnerable in every post or seem to be going outside the scope of a professional graduate student, with the hockey and meme and music references, it’s because I do the actual thesis work, and stayed in grad school essentially to inspire others, and take away some of the fear and trepidation for them. Like me, there is someone who might be questioning where they belong academically, and where they fit in the grand scheme of things. There could be someone out there who knows who they are, what they are interested in beyond the academic world, and what they want to do, and just needs to see someone else who is a human, who isn’t yet settled into a career, who has relatable struggles, and who has held onto more than just their academic persona exists. And maybe I’m not the strongest example, but I hope to be one of them.

What Do I Hope To Accomplish With This Work?

The primary goal of my research is to give myself a strong foundation in the history, practice, and implications of the field to ensure that I can indeed apply and critique my skills. I also hope to illustrate the radiating impact of the field to others and pass along the same level of concern and awareness, whether it is through teaching or being a subject-matter expert.

How Are My Analytics Looking? 

If you’re still here after everything else, thank you! You deserve some fresh music, and since we are on such a journey, it’s only fitting that we listen to “Young Turks” by Rod Stewart. I used analytics because I’m not only a sucker for sports analogies, but I think this post has cleared up a lot of questions about what I’m doing, how I’m facilitating it, and the intentions going into, going through, and hopefully coming out of this project, which is similar to analytics that show the trajectory of a player’s season or career. To tie it all together and back to hockey, I guess I’m in the phase of both my thesis progression and my life where high-danger chances are being presented to me left and right or I’m consistently finding myself on the powerplay, and I just need to find the momentum to convert! 

Regardless, I’m going to cap it here for now (or at least here for this blog post for this week), and with our young hearts being free, I will see you all on the other side! 

Two or Three Minutes, Two or Three Hours

“The highest compliment you can pay me is that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.” – Wayne Gretzky 

A Brief Introduction

Let me start this blog with one of the most awe-striking and inspiring things I can share with you that has happened since our last class meeting; the New Jersey Devils started their season with a massive, heart-pounding, and invigorating overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, setting a record for the quickest goal ever scored in a season-opening game in the process! (The childlike excitement of opening nights, and every game thereafter never goes away! I can feel my face splitting into a grin just typing this!) Between the excitement of one event and being sidelined with allergies this weekend, I guess you could say I binged on my thesis work this weekend, and there’s not only a sense of clarity but so much more investment on my part to keep the momentum and meaning going! I should also make it clear that I think headings are going to become a staple of my blog posts from here on out; it’s mainly an organizational tactic to make sure all my bases are covered and labeled clearly, and it’s also for the aesthetic that comes with the outline sidebar on Google Docs. 

There’s a whole soundtrack that goes along with this post, so I’ll let you choose between starting with either “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, “Spirits – Sondr Remix” by The Strumbellas, or “Bo Exotic” by Turbo, and then going to one of the others. 

Thesis Progress 

The Research Side 

From the research perspective, I am situated right where I want to be for this moment in the semester. I have amassed just about 16 solid peer-reviewed articles taken from databases, an array of newspaper clippings that span from the genesis of forensic linguistics in the late 1960s to the present day detailing either implicitly or explicitly the presence of forensic linguistics, three podcasts in their entirety and various assorted episodes of others, a handful of documentaries, and a few more books that I am currently working through reading and marking up. (Thank you to Dr. Fall, if you are reading this, for giving me a godsend with Word Crimes! I found it in digital form for free through Kean! Still working on the Routledge Handbook.) The research I have thus far covers a couple of categories: written evidence analysis(both the spoken evidence analysis (interviews and otherwise) and the complexities that come with recorded or digitally enhanced forensic linguistic analysis.

Assessing what I have so far, I recognize that there is a need for more articles that highlight the genesis and evolution of the field, rather than just the application and implication, and this will be my focus for the upcoming week. (I say week, but I have the Learning Commons popped open in another tab, and I know that the texts I am thumbing through have material that is suitable for this purpose.) Additionally, I am interested in looking into the nature of police investigation and interrogation techniques, and the tandem of linguistic, psychological, and sociological factors, issues, and implications embedded within them. (I figure this is enriching information for my project, and even if I don’t end up having a need for it, just in general.) Thus far, my starting point is two books I’ve rented in digital form from the school library, a handful of podcast pieces, and some journal articles I have left over from my forensic psychology class from my undergraduate minor. An avenue I could take to finding solid sources on this sub-topic would be to find some way to retrieve the syllabus with all the linked articles, if possible, or reach out to the professor directly. I could supplement this plan with targeted database searches and continuously sifting through podcasts.

Something paramount to finding a beginning, and serving as an origin or sounding board when I do get stuck in a loop has been looking at forensic linguistics-based graduate programs across the country, and running a marathon through any readily available syllabi, recommended resources on program websites, and sifting through the related resources and articles that then appear within databases. (This process is also giving me further education and career goals and dreams, but that’s a whole different ballpark!)

I have also looked into adjacent subjects and fields to bolster my research, including corpus linguistics, or the practice of amassing large bodies of “real-life” language stored in computer databases and utilizing it for researching trends, shifts, and other noteworthy linguistic phenomena. The purpose of going a bit offside is two-fold; one, this is a field I am familiar with thanks to the work I completed in Dr. Nelson’s course, which means I have ample understanding and some sources in the bank, and two, I am starting to see a connection between the two fields, in the sense that with so much of forensic linguistics moving into the virtual realm, the overlap between that and corpus linguistics is about to Venn diagram. Also, corpus linguistics is taking root in the legal world, which is critical to explicating the necessity of forensic linguistics.

(I’m beginning to seriously consider submitting an application for Research Days, because this is something I think people will be interested in once it is brought to their attention, and it is good motivation!)  

To further clarify what my research is shaping up to look like, here’s a quick outline of the moving components for each category/subcategory and some brief rationales and descriptions! (Let me know if you think it is too much, not enough, or needs something else, like a plan for how to integrate everything or more cowbell!)

  1. Forensic Linguistics 
    1. Genesis and History of Forensic Linguistics 
    2. Categories of Forensic Linguistics/Areas of Application
      1. Written Evidence Analysis 
        1. Offshoot of discourse analysis – examining language construction, syntax, phonological structure, etc. 
          1. Can be either digital or handwritten 
          2. Handwritten instances offer potential to branch into forensic stenography – signature/handwriting analysis, forgery investigations, writing under duress, etc. 
            1. Sources/Research that Relate to this area of application 
  • ransom notes, forgery, contract disputes, blackmail, suicide note analysis, journal entries examination, etc. 
  1. Impact – Authorship, intent, and patterns of behavior can be established through analysis of writing, social media activity, etc. 
  1. Spoken Word Analysis 
    1. Heavy on Discourse Theory and Analysis
      1. Deals with issues of linguistic bias, linguistic profiling, the need for cultural sensitivity, etc. 
      2. Presents itself in eyewitness accounts, interviews, testimony, etc.
      3. Brings to light the question of how linguistic bias is often counted over actual forensic linguistic application, and how it has contributed to wrongful incarceration, coerced false confessions, etc. 
  2. Digital Evidence Analysis 
    1. Ties back into written analysis in a way 
      1. Examining the digital interpersonal communication between individuals can discern knowledge, patterns, responsibility, etc. 
        1. Examination can also lead to uncovering rings of other involvement, can highlight deceptive linguistic tactics used to hide authorship/mimic the speech of others (ex. “Deep fakes”)
      2. Is a component of what connects forensic linguistics to corpus linguistics
    2. Computer-Based Forensic Linguistic Analysis 
      1. As algorithms become more refined and are employed by both scientists and those in the criminal justice system alike, how will this change the field and the outcomes of individuals?
  3. Enhanced Audio Evidence 
    1. Speaker Identification 
      1. In a recorded instance, such as a wiretap (see The Wire for reference or cases that involve 911 call analysis)
    2. Linguistic Profiling and Speech Pattern Recognition
  1. Other Instances of Forensic Linguistics 
    1. Police Interviews/Interrogations + Tactics
    2. Eyewitness Accounts
    3. Courtroom Testimonies + Jury Deliberation 
  2. Implications (Legal, Psychological, etc.)
  3. Gaps/Issues in the Field 
    1. Cultural Sensitivity 
    2. Police Training 
    3. Perception and Evaluation of Linguistic Evidence 
    4. Jury/Judicial Linguistic Bias
    5. Effect of Media Portrayal 
      1. Optional to pursue, but still important as the expectations set by TV or media portrayals of the field may yield real-life implications (CSI effect) 
  1. Corpus Linguistics 
    1. Overview/Genesis
    2. Connection to Digital Forensic Linguistics
    3. Connection to Trends in Eyewitness Accounts/Jury Deliberations
  2. Methodology/Analysis 
    1. Discourse Analysis 
    2. Protocol Analysis 

The Creative Side (If There is One and Time for It)

Why Is This Needed? What Will It Be?

With the scope of my project and everything outlined above, a research paper or a deeper delve into the field of forensic linguistics seems like what I’m aiming for, or would at least be the easiest route to travel, given the time constraints of these pesky little things called semesters. Yet, I find myself drawn to wanting to do both because as I am beginning to find, my brain really likes the word tandem (years of being a hockey fan, I suppose) and as such, even my thesis has to be a tandem project of both research and creativity. All the research I have done thus far would have been necessary for a creative piece, and even if it isn’t for this course, I know the opportunity to convert everything I know into a study or analysis is a possibility! (Also, I’m really considering forensic linguistics as a career path going forward, so it doesn’t hurt getting as familiar with it as I possibly can!) Plus, it’s a challenge for me! I get to play both time management and meeting academic deadlines and standards on expert mode, and I love that! 

As multifaceted as it is as a field, forensic linguistics also offers a wealth of creative writing ideas; it could be a screenplay or script for a TV show episode (which reminds me, I need to sit down and watch  NYPD Blue and find the paper that analyzes its use of forensic linguistics!), material for a podcast, a short story, a whole novel, an interactive story, or an e-lit piece. Currently, I am leaning towards incorporating some of the core elements of forensic linguistics that interest me and crafting a handful of short stories that detail just how much of a role forensic linguistics plays in different settings, as outlined above, while also highlighting the emerging and pressing issues of inequities and bias. I can change the cast of characters every time, and I can further delve into sub-categories of forensic work, such as forensic stenography or forensic audiology this way, without the messiness of trying to work these concepts into a research paper may entail. 

So, I guess to give you a quick recap: Yes, there is research that has occurred and remains ongoing, comprised of several areas of interest and key concepts. Simultaneously, there are plans to begin writing informed short stories that not only synthesize several aspects of the completed research but highlight important issues within the field and offer, in a fictitious setting, workarounds, and solutions. The latter is to be determined, depending on time constraints. 

Setting Goals For Progress

Where Is This Going?

I’m guessing that by now, the three songs from earlier have definitely run their course, so put on “Let’s Work Together” by Dwight Yoakam since that’s essentially the spirit both sides of this project happen to be taking on! 

It always comes back to research first, and it’s a matter of first clearing out everything on my digital library loan bookshelf. I have twenty-one days to comb through the four books I have checked out, and I plan to tackle this systemically. I will first take a look through the table of content, select two chapters from each, and proceed to first skim, and then read and annotate if it proves to be fruitful. Word Crimes is the one text I plan to read in its entirety for the emphasis it places on issues of equity, the fact that it is a leading contemporary text in the field, and for the personal enrichment it will bring. Following this, I will finish out the remaining podcasts in my queue with associated notes and then reload with podcasts around the topics of police interviewing training, false and coerced confessions, and corpus linguistics.

When it comes to the methods of analysis, I have a solid understanding and amount of sources to support my rationale for the particular methodologies and their application ready from my work in Dr. Nelson’s class, so this is not a priority at the moment.

I have already created a Google Drive folder with PDFs for the bulk of my sources in the form of articles and some newspaper articles and will continue tidying up and integrating my annotations for each article, as well as podcast episodes into this same folder, and create a separate space on my website to round out the idea of a “public literature review” or research project coming to life. In addition to this, I have a running bibliography page, all in APA 7 format, as that is what I am most comfortable with. (Also because my other courses are requiring it and it’s easier on my brain.) 

To achieve these goals, I am going to have to carve out at least two hours a day for thesis work, which I know I can do, though I’m not sure where I’m going to gain the two hours from just yet. I also plan to use my weekends for the part of my research that may or may not be necessary; the media portrayal of forensic linguistics. (It’s a reason to watch TV and think critically about it without being a “nerd” who “can’t stop thinking about school-related things.”)

On the creative side of things, there is going to be a synthesis of the completed research to discern points of interest, importance, and concern, and much more brainstorming must be done before any writing commences. I’m setting a deadline for two weeks from now for there to be a separate Google Drive folder created for the creative component that includes the following: a solid rationale for why this portion of my thesis is necessary, a graphic organizer for each component of forensic linguistics I hope to cover in my short stories, and a rough outline of the first story of what I hope is many. 

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself 

For the first time last week, I had someone outside my circle of classmates, friends, and family ask me the questions I think everyone needs to revisit as their project and passion continues to grow: Why this topic, and what are you hoping to learn from it, or do with it? Why should other people even care about forensic linguistics? And in the sections below, I hope to explicate just that, if only briefly. 

Why Am I Interested in This? 

My interest in the topic was born, in part, out of my inherent interest in the CSI TV series and franchise, as it showed that there is so much more to the trial and prosecution of individuals than just arrests and trials, and there were several instances where the specific language was used in interviews that the characters knew would connect with the suspect or instances where handwriting, digital files, or audio were examined as evidence just as critical as a fingerprint. From that point forward, I knew that there was a way to utilize my love of language and ability to deconstruct and identify meanings, patterns, and intent for something monumental. 

The work that forensic linguistics entails can quite literally change the trajectory of someone’s life; admissions of guilt can be proven to be coerced or misinterpreted, intent in language can be reframed as innocence, and testimony can be shredded or bolstered. Behind each exchange of words, there is an intent, malicious or not, and there is an interpretation that deserves to be recognized and examined. 

Who Am I Doing This For?

First and foremost, I’m engaged in the field of forensic linguistics to bring justice to those who are denied; those with the dialects deemed “inferior” “unreliable” “uneducated” “twangy” or any other derogatory term. There’s a correlation between those who are denied justice and those who are told that their language is a damning factor for them. I do this for those who have proven that they have intentions to harm others, who have established those patterns, and to bring them to justice as well. 

What Do I Hope To Accomplish With This Work?

The primary goal of my research is to give myself a strong foundation in the history, practice, and implications of the field to ensure that I can indeed apply and critique my skills. I also hope to illustrate the radiating impact of the field to others and pass along the same level of concern and awareness, whether it is through teaching or being a subject-matter expert.

How Are My Analytics Looking? 

If you’re still here after everything else, thank you! You deserve some fresh music, and since we are on such a journey, it’s only fitting that we listen to “Young Turks” by Rod Stewart. I used analytics because I’m not only a sucker for sports analogies, but I think this post has cleared up a lot of questions about what I’m doing, how I’m facilitating it, and the intentions going into, going through, and hopefully coming out of this project, which is similar to analytics that show the trajectory of a player’s season or career. To tie it all together and back to hockey, I guess I’m in the phase of both my thesis progression and my life where high-danger chances are being presented to me left and right or I’m consistently finding myself on the powerplay, and I just need to find the momentum to convert! 

Regardless, I’m going to cap it here for now (or at least here for this blog post for this week), and with our young hearts being free, I will see you all on the other side! 

Does Anything Still Move You Since You’re Educated Now?

A Skippable Part: Just Me Letting Things Out and Having an Identity Crisis

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my time in this program, what’s happening outside of the classroom is just as integral to someone’s learning as what’s going on inside. I want to start out this post by sharing just a little bit about what I’m looking forward to beyond my academic pursuits and why it means so much to me. (And it does come full circle because in a way this is what gives me hope and keeps me going!) 

I’d be shocked if no one knew already, but for those of you who don’t, I am a huge New Jersey Devils fan (17 years this season!) and can’t wait to see them return to action this Friday! There’s nothing like having a fresh reset every season; it’s a new roster, a chance to win the Stanley Cup, and for fans, there’s this palpable excitement in the air that makes you want to go out and express that in everything you do. There’s this wonder that never ceases to find me every season; you have both experience and a blank slate, so you are starting fresh, but not from scratch. This season it all dovetails into the beauty of hockey being back on ESPN, with some games on ABC, and the iconic theme I haven’t heard since the last Devils’ cup win preluding every matchup. All of this is the stuff that keeps me going because in a way, getting to wrap up this thesis and start living life a little faster as I figure out who I want to be, and what I want to do is my version of the Stanley Cup, and as an entity, whether I’m Sun the student, Sun the professional, or Sun the human, I am my own dynasty team.

Hockey season and the excitement it brings has always been one of the most reliable sources of joy in my life. Growing up, it was something that was entirely mine; my brother didn’t care for it, I didn’t inherit my interest for it or the team I root for from my Dad, and I knew my mother was just happy to see I was staying out of trouble and at least sitting in one spot. It was also the thing that kept me going as my grandmother progressively got sicker before passing; my parents had spent so much time looking after her, that sometimes it was the color commentators that became a familiar company in the home. I remember being mystified first by the team name, and then by the actual action, and as someone with a library card does, checking out every book to exist on the topic of “hockey” that I could find, from biographies to histories to “how to play” guides. Tears were shed when I discovered the Miracle on Ice and watched the film adaption that came out the same year. (And yes, I rewatch it every year on the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.) Herb Brooks’ speech and the exclamation of “Do You Believe in Miracles? YES!” has gotten me through all my tough moments. 

I’m also amped up and relived, in a sense, that I’ve held onto my passion for the Devils’, the Riveters, and the Mets for so long because as I came to realize this past weekend, there are times where I get so consumed with school and future aspirations that it seems like there’s no room to still be a person, let alone myself. There’s always an illusion of silliness or immaturity attached to being so forthcoming about things you love beyond your career trajectory, and I hope that I can erase that sort of insecurity for anyone who stumbles onto my work, the way figures leading the good fight for equity, diversity, and acceptance in hockey like Renee Hess and Saroya Tinker have for me over the years. So, whether you’re feeling annoyed or misty-eyed with my vulnerability, tune in to “Howl” by the Gaslight Anthem, and let’s get on with the thesis show! 

Thesis Progress 

Research is continuing to be my primary focus, and I have to say, it’s reaching my favorite stage of a smooth, input-output reaction. My targeted searches, and my willingness to integrate sources beyond just academic articles, such as podcasts, documentaries, and true-to-life newspaper articles have eased plenty of the burden and are far more fruitful for demonstrating usage of forensic linguistics over simply the theory and history of the field. The podcasts I have listened to fluctuate from having linguistics as the focus to being  

Some of the podcasts I have listened to if you want to follow along are En Clair, Morbid, and Vocal Fries, which all delve into forensic linguistics, eyewitness testimony, and even the process of how juries evaluate linguistic evidence. (Of course, this means Speak of the Devils is on the backburner, but I’ll somehow live.) I also have a smattering of singular episodes and series that I will eventually pull off the backlog, so stay tuned!

In terms of written sources, I have found more newspaper articles that are, once again, dealing indirectly with the application of forensic linguistics as they mention “eyewitness testimony” “extensive interviewing” etc. I have plans this weekend, (post-Devils game of course!), to sift through any and all public legal documents with real-life cases that involve forensic linguistics.

To give you a case of how forensic linguistics can be enacted in one form, through the examination of written language. Let us briefly delve now into the case of Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. (It’s a skeletal version of an article review.) 

A Look Into the Process of Forensic Linguistics – Written Evidence Analysis 

(Article Title: “Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note Case: Forensic Linguistic Profiling Analysis” by Eva T. S. Sudjana, Nurul Fitri)

Case Background 

Kurt Cobain, front-man of the grunge band Nirvana and often regarded as the most prominent figure of the grunge music movement of the 1990s, passed away after committing suicide on April 5, 1994, via a gunshot wound to the head, with his body remaining undiscovered for three days in his home’s garage. This event came after months of turmoil, where Cobain had displayed increasingly erratic behavior and troubling language, such as locking himself into rooms to avoid interactions with others and speaking of suicidal ideations. Following his death, his widow, Courtney Love, spoke publicly to his fans and read portions of his suicide note. 

Excerpts read from the note included phrases such as:

“Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand… I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re gone… Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your alter. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me… “I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!”

This sparked the theory that perhaps it was not suicide, but his tumultuous relationship with Courtney Love that had led, to murder, not suicide, and the forging of the note left behind. 

Evidence Introduced 

As previously stated, the linguistic evidence introduced in this particular case was the suicide note left behind by Cobain. Through a form of discourse analysis, the process to determine whether the note was authentically written by him entailed assessing the content, the structure, motivation, and ultimately this process served to prove whether the note was doctored or authentically written by Cobain. 

Analysis 

The authors of this article perform their own analysis of Cobain’s suicide note, first by deconstructing the semantics, or literal meanings of phrases from the excerpts available to the public. It is discerned that there is content that is characteristic of Cobain’s writing and concerns, such as the note being addressed to “Boddah,” an imaginary friend from his childhood. Next, the authors move into the question of explicating intent, and uncovering whether there was any hesitation, any mention of prior warning signs that this tragedy would occur, and if there are patterns in the writing that can be seen as ambiguous or possibly signs of hesitation. Particular phrases, such as “I haven’t felt the excitement for several years,” serve as proof that the thoughts and intent have existed for a lengthy period of time. 

Furthermore, there are several instances of the text that refer to both his fans and his interpersonal circle as individuals who would be impacted by his death, suggesting that he was aware of the lasting effects of his actions.  

Ultimate Conclusion 

Ultimately, the authors agreed with the official report that Cobain indeed authored the suicide note. 

A Callback

After I found this article and a host of others, I did some surface-level imposter research, also known as opening Google Scholar and not using targeted or truncated searches, and discovered that in much of the United States, sometimes as a principal and sometimes as a standard, in instances of suicide where there is a note, voice memo, or some form of posthumous communication left behind, it is a legal requirement for it to be examined by a language expert, which means that yes, suicide note analysis specifically is a niche within forensic linguistics. 

Content like this is never easy to read and is even more difficult to digest. If you or someone else is ever struggling with suicidal ideations or intentions, firstly, please know that you are not alone, and you are not only valued by, but essential to those in your life, and resources are available to you, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.

Despite all the darkness, I can see how this subspecialty is a necessity. In many instances, this sort of analysis can provide family and loved ones with a sense of closure. I leave you with all of this and the hopeful sound of your surroundings!