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Chris Heffer

Dr Chris Heffer


School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 29208 70276
John Percival Building, Room 3.65a, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU






  • Henderson, E., Heffer, C. and Kebbell, M. 2016. Courtroom questioning and discourse. In: Oxburgh, G. et al. eds. Communication in Investigative and Legal Contexts: Integrated Approaches from Forensic Psychology, Linguistics and Law Enforcement. Wiley Series in Psychology of Crime, Policing and Law Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 181-208.





  • Heffer, C. 2010. Constructing crime stories in court. In: Coulthard, M. and Johnson, A. eds. The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics. Routledge Handbooks of Applied Linguistics London: Routledge, pp. 199-217.






Book sections




My research focuses on a  number of cross-disciplinary themes related to communication in professional  practice. My early work focused on narrative and particularly the tension between narrative and logico-scientific modes of  reasoning as manifested in the language of legal professionals in jury trial.

This led to an hypothesis (recently confirmed in a PhD student's work) that  "˜narrativization"™ of legal language in judges'™ instructions to juries will  improve comprehension. It has also led to extensive work on communication of  the criminal standard of proof beyond  reasonable doubt, including a submission to the New South Wales Law Reform  Commission.

I have recently developed a model of Narrative Navigation™ that  tries to capture the dynamic and strategic nature of narrative practice in  professional contexts and that can help unravel the paradox that institutional  practices can appear focused on narrative while manifesting very little in the  way of narrative discourse.

Narrative is a key means of conveying one's voice but voice (in the critical sense)  is ineffective unless it is projected successfully. My model of Voice  Projection enables a systematic analysis of the agentive and structural  aspects of voice particularly in discursively constrained institutional  contexts.

I have applied this model to the Vicky Pryce trial and shown that the  jury's questions to the judge were not as "stupid"™ as the judge and the media  made out and I intend to apply it to contexts of Alzheimer's care.

Finally,  narrative and voice are both central to my overriding concern with the rhetoric of professional practice. I am  currently writing a book (Lying in  Language and Law) that explores the rhetorical use of lying and deception  in the legal process and focuses in particular on the rhetoric underlying the  many dubious lie detection technologies.

Generally, my work cautions against  technological solutions to problems such as assessing intent that depend on  human subjectivity. All this work is feeding into my OUP monograph Rhetoric and Rights, which argues that  the legal process is primarily persuasive (and only secondarily rule-bound) and  which consequently sets out an explanatory model of forensic discourse as  rhetoric.

Research interests

  • forensic linguistics
  • legal-lay communication
  • narrative
  • persuasion
  • rhetoric
  • lying and deception
  • discourse analysis
  • language and culture
  • corpus linguistics
  • linguistic ideologies


I was brought up in Guildford (UK) and Auckland  (NZ). I went to university at 16 and did a BA in English and Philosophy at  Victoria University in Wellington. After a gap year spent travelling through  South-East Asia and living and working in the south of France, I moved to Italy  and found a position at the University of Venice, where I taught English  language and linguistics for many years.

I simultaneously pursued careers in  translation, editing, publishing and voiceover artistry, as well as working for  a humanitarian organisation in Croatia and Bosnia during the Balkans war in the  early 1990s. While in Italy, I completed an MA in Applied Linguistics and, on  returning to England, I undertook a PhD in Forensic Linguistics at the  University of Birmingham.

I worked at Nottingham Trent University  for four years before coming to Cardiff University, where I have been since the  end of 2005. I teach modules at all levels in the Centre for Language  and Communication Research, including Introduction to Language  (Year 1), Language and Culture (Year 2), Persuasion in the Legal Process (Year  3) and three modules on the MA in Forensic Linguistics programme. I am currently  Director of the MA/Diploma in  Forensic Linguistics and co-founder of the Cardiff Language and  Law (CaLL) research network.

My PhD from the University of Birmingham  was the first large-scale study of language in English courts and I have since  published articles in linguistic and legal journals on various theoretical and  communicational aspects of the trial process and jury instruction.

I am the  author of The Language of Jury Trial: A  Corpus-aided Analysis of Legal-Lay Discourse (Palgrave 2005) and co-editor  of Legal-Lay Communication: Textual  Travels in the Law (OUP 2013). I am currently writing two books: Lying in Language and Law: Truth, Trust and  Technologies of Deception (Palgrave forth.) and Rhetoric and Rights: A Theory of Forensic Discourse (OUP forth).

I  am a member of the editorial board for the OUP book series Oxford Studies in  Language and Law.