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Is it wise to dismiss the native speaker? A matter of due process


April this year saw the publication of ?One Bias Particular to Asylum Courts: The Native-Speaker Bias? by Verified?s Andreea Dragu, Lars Johan Lundberg and Sven Björsten. The paper was published in the International Journal of Language and Linguistics (vol.10:2).

Determining the right to asylum for applicants without papers is difficult. Forensic language analysis is one tool that contributes to establishing whether an applicant?s statement as to place of origin is plausible. The methodology of some providers of language analysis involves both the theoretical knowledge of a qualified linguist and the input of a native speaker of the dialect under analysis.

However, courts have a tendency to dismiss the contributions of native speakers in favour of those of the academically distinguished, which constitutes a serious bias.

In no way seeking to deny the value and contribution of academic experts, the article sets out to show that there are important respects in which they cannot replace native speakers. The reason is that some linguistic abilities are unlikely to develop fully when a language is learnt non-natively ? that is, after the so called critical period for language learning, which ends around puberty.

Naturally, the input from native-speaker analysts does not in itself determine the outcome of language analysis, as the data they provide is further processed by qualified linguists, in accordance with forensic methodology and with reference to information in scientific publications. But if the data available to the linguist is not adequate, the analysis will of course be compromised. The most adequate data comes from native speakers.

The authors conclude that if native-speaker analysts were recognised as having the unique and valuable abilities that they do when it comes to their own linguistic varieties, it would ?enable a more correct assessment of the credibility of native speakers employed in [language analysis] and help stamp out one of the biases that threaten the fairness of asylum court proceedings and outcomes?.

The full article can be accessed at:

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