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Dr Frances Rock


Dr Frances Rock Position: Senior Lecturer Email:
Telephone: +44(0)29 208 70277
Extension: 70277
Location: John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cathays, Cardiff

Research Group

Centre for Language and Communication Research

I am also a member of Cardiff Language and law (CaLL) CaLL

New for 2015: We are offering an Advanced Research Residency in Language and Law

Postgraduate Students

I am interested in supervising PhD students in areas related to language and/in legal settings, particularly policing, language and workplaces and ecolinguistics. Work which draws on ethnography, literacy, interactional sociolinguistics and discourse analysis would be of interest along with work with an applied focus which aims to address real-world problems.  I have previously supervised work in areas as diverse as attitudes to accents and dialects, comprehension and comprehensibility of immigration documents, suicide negotiations, media representations of rights.

Research Interests

Police language, forensic linguistics, workplace language, ecolinguistics and language and the Environment, information design, document design, ‘difficult’ language, expert-lay communication, discourse, literacies, linguistic ethnography, interactional sociolinguistics, recontextualisation and textual travel, research methods.

Selected Publications

2013  ‘‘Every link in the chain’: The police interview as textual intersection’  In: Conley, J., Heffer, C. and Rock, F.  (eds.)  Legal-Lay Communication: Textual Travels in the Law  Oxford: Oxford University Press

2012 ‘‘You say ‘I’m sure’ but you’re not, are you?’: Trust and distrust in police interviews’  In: Candlin, C. and Crichton, J. (eds.)  Discourses of Trust Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

2007 Communicating rights: The language of arrest and detention. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

2006 ‘Looking the other way: Linguistic ethnography and forensic linguistics’ UK Linguistic Ethnography Forum papers.

2005 ‘“Sometimes you pinch stuff”: Communities of practice in an institutional setting’ In: Barton, D. and Tusting, K. (eds) Beyond communities of practice. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge ISBN 0521544920 77-104.

2001 ‘The genesis of a witness statement’ Forensic linguistics: the international journal of speech, language and the law 8, 2 ISSN 1350-1771 44-72.

2001 ‘Policy and practice in the anonymisation of linguistic data’ International journal of corpus linguistics 6, 1 ISSN 1384-6655 1-26. The anonymisation of linguistic data.




Custody cell

Much of my research has been dedicated to the investigation of language in legal settings. With a particular focus on the police I have examined texts, processes and practices which mediate information between legal specialists and lay people, in both directions. This research has had various practical outcomes. For example, it contributed to the development of a new written text to explain rights to people in police custody and new procedures to accompany that text. This text and accompanying procedures are now in use in police stations throughout England and Wales. I have also collaborated with police officers in the redesign of a range of letters addressed to the public (witnesses, victims of crime and those complaining against the police). I have investigated interview techniques, particularly during witness interviewing. I am currently collaborating on an investigation of talk at the opening of police-witness interviews. I have examined call-handling procedures during both emergency and non-emergency calls (see, for example,,, I am currently working with interpreters, and in collaboration with interpreters and police interview trainers, on methods for dealing with legal terms and on training around interpreted interviews both for interpreters and police. These research projects lead me to address a wide range of research questions using predominantly sociolinguistic and discursive techniques. These research questions cluster around themes of ‘difficult’ language, lay-specialist communication, workplace language and the communication of socially important information.

You can take part in some of my research either by submitting data as a participant (go to or by joining in discussion of submitted data (go to Please come along and join in!

My work uses a range of techniques, theoretical frameworks and concepts drawn from discourse analysis, new literacy studies, sociolinguistics, linguistic ethnography and interactional sociolinguistics.


  • Cardiff Language and Law (CaLL) CaLL

  • My most recent single-authored monograph is Communicating Rights: The language of arrest and detention. The book explores ways in which rights are communicated in police custody. You can buy a copy from Amazon.

  • The Notice of Rights and Entitlements (available in multiple languages). This text was devised by Sergeant John Price. I got involved in examining the text, before it was introduced, by interviewing people who had received a copy while they were in police custody. This led to some revisions to the text and to procedures in detention.


I am a senior lecturer here in the Centre for Language and Communication Research which is part of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. I came to work here directly from Roehampton University where I held a lectureship in Language and Linguistics for four years. I have also taught at the University of Birmingham and on the International Summer School in Forensic Linguistics. I have previously worked in industry, for the manufacturing company Northern Foods; as a Research Associate in Public Health and Epidemiology and in publishing posts for Trinity Publications and Robinswood Books. A one-time Cardiff undergraduate, I also hold an MA in Modern English Language from Lancaster University and a PhD in English from The University of Birmingham.

My Undergraduate- and Masters-level teaching experience includes such courses as: Forensic linguistics (at both MA and UG level); Ecolinguistics / language and the environment; Discourse; Qualitative research methods; Men, women and language; Introduction to Language and society; Research skills; Introduction to human communication; Language, society and power; Language change; and History of the English language.

For several years I was CLCR’s Undergraduate Admissions Tutor and also ran the CLCR Seminar Series for some time. I have served on the Executive Committee of the British Association of Applied Linguistics with particular responsibility for the administration of the BAAL/CUP Seminar Series and have served as Publicity Secretary of the International Association of Forensic Linguistics.

Frances is an Editor (with Professor Diana Eades, Professor Peter French and Dr Michael Jesson) of: Forensic linguistics: The international journal of speech, language and the law ISSN 1350 1771 2001-2006.