LARG follows up the work of the Language and National Origin
Group (LNOG), the first organisation of scholars to monitor, debate and author
research on LADO internationally. In June 2004 LNOG members jointly authored the influential
Guidelines for the Use of Language Analysis in relation to Questions of National
Origin in Refugee Cases.
The Guidelines have been endorsed by national
professional associations of linguists, both theoretical and applied, in Europe,
Australasia and North America, as well as international associations of dialectologists
and linguists with specific expertise – organizations with total
membership numbering many thousands of scientifically-trained professional
linguists. The Guidelines are cited by Stygall (2009: 260-1) as an
exemplar of “codes of ethics for forensic settings”.
||American Association for Applied Linguistics
||Endorsed the Guidelines at annual business meeting on 19
June 2006. Follow 'About Us/Resolutions' link.
||Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe
||Endorsed the Guidelines in General Assembly on 9
||Applied Linguistics Association of Australia
||Endorsed the Guidelines in 2005.
||Australian Linguistic Society
||Unanimously adopted motion endorsing the Guidelines
at annual general meeting of Sept 2005. Follow 'Policies' link.
||Nederlandse Vereniging voor Toegepaste Taalwetenschaap
||(Dutch Association of Applied Linguistics) Endorsed the
Guidelines in 2007.
||Algemene Vereniging voor Taalwetenschaap
||(Dutch Society for General Linguistics) endorsed the Guidelines
||British Association for Applied Linguistics
||Executive Committee endorsed the Guidelines in 2005. Follow
'Home/Public Documents' link.
||International Association of Forensic Linguists
||Unanimously passed motion on 12 July 2003 at biennial
conference in Sydney, noting "serious concerns about the underlying
assumptions as well as the methods being used in this so-called 'language
analysis'." [This preceded publication of the Guidelines.] Follow
||Linguistic Association of Great Britain
||Notion endorsing the Guidelines and recommending them to LAGB
membership was adopted without reservation at Sept 2005 AGM. Follow 'Annual
Meetings/Minutes 2005' link.
||Linguistic Society of America
||Endorsed the Guidelines at annual business meeting of
9 Jan 2009, with no votes against. 'Resolutions'
||Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics
||Unanimously adopted resolution endorsing the Guidelines
at annual business meeting of 8 January 2005 in Oakland, CA.
Co-authors of the Guidelines
This 2,000-word document was co-authored by a group of 19
linguists resident in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and
the USA (a larger group of linguists participated in lengthy email discussions
over a period of 10 months in 2003-04). At least 17 LNOG members held PhDs, 5 of them were full Professors of Linguistics, and at least half of
them had first-hand experience of linguistic analysis in the asylum context
and/or other forensic linguistic experience. They included experts in applied
linguistics, bilingualism, language assessment, discourse analysis, language
policy, forensic phonetics, linguistic anthropology and language contact;
members who had distinguished records of publication, of editorial experience in
peer-reviewed technical journals, and of experience educating magistrates and
judges on applied linguistic issues; and former presidents of the
Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, and the International Association of Forensic
The Audience for the Guidelines
The Guidelines were intended for the guidance of both
language professionals and concerned government agencies and NGOs, including
Non-linguists (e.g. lawyers, administrative
judges, asylum issues activists, members of government agencies
involved in making asylum decisions, and others) who recognise
that issues of language and nationality are complex, and who
recognize the importance of contributions by qualified experts
in this area; and
Linguists who have not yet been involved in
such situations, but might become so, or who feel they ought to
be informed about developments in their field.
Purpose of the Guidelines
The Guidelines were intended as a starting point in a
new, urgent and rapidly-developing field of linguistic practice.
The document is addressed primarily to people outside the
linguistic profession, giving an idea of what the signers think the minimum
requirements and safeguards for competent professional language analysis ought
to be. This is perhaps its most important function: to serve as a touchstone and
reference point for governments seeking to know how to conduct their
investigations in a professional manner; for asylum applicants who have been
turned down, in part because of what they believe to be incorrect assessments
based in part on language; and for advocates who need information about the
connections between language and national origins.
The document provides the necessary context for linguists, and
recommends a set of principles that most qualified linguists will find uncontroversial, even obvious. It
does however touch on a number of bases that might not immediately occur to
linguist colleagues contacted about this matter for the first time.
A number of broad guidelines first address the general
limitations of, and requirements for, linguistic expertise; while several
specifically address problems known to frequently arise in LADO contexts.
Status of the Guidelines
The Guidelines' programme for improving the standard
practice of LADO has been cited and responded to by various organizations
involved in LADO, including Sprakab and De Taalstudio; the Swiss, Canadian,
Norwegian and Dutch government bureaux; UNHCR, and many NGOs and legal
organisations; and in hundreds of legal appeals to asylum decisions in European
nations. Australian courts were among the first to recognize linguists' concerns about LADO, as
embodied in the Guidelines (Eades 2010). The Netherlands Council of
State accepted the independence of the LNOG authors, and the Guidelines
have been referred to often in Dutch case law (Eades 2010, Verrips 2008, 2010).
The Swiss LADO unit Lingua has recognised the importance of the Guidelines
in promoting quality control. Since 2009 the Norwegian Immigration
Administration requires LADO reports and procedures to accord with most
principles of the Guidelines. In addition, UDI requires that a
specialised linguist who prepares a LADO report consult a native speaker (UDI 2009a).
A recent chapter by LNOG co-author Diana Eades reviews the
history, authorship, content and status of the Guidelines in more
Eades, Diana. 2010. Guidelines from linguists
for LADO. In Language and Origin: The Role of Language in
European Asylum Procedures: A Linguistic and Legal Survey,
edited by Karin Zwaan, Pieter Muysken and Maaike Verrips.
Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 35-42.
Publication of the Guidelines
The Guidelines were published in two international,
peer-reviewed linguistics research journals (first in
International Journal of
Speech, Language and the Law, Vol 11 No 2, 2004; later in
Vol 26 No 4, 2005), and at least two journals dealing with refugee issues (the
Dutch Journaal Vreemdelingenrecht
- Journal of Immigration Law, and the German
Asylum Magazine, the Journal of Refugee and Migration Law ). The entire document is available (courtesy of
Equinox Publishers) via UNHCR’s
RefWorld site, a primary source
of Refugee Status Ddetermination information worldwide.
LNOG - Language and National Origin Group.
2004. Guidelines for the use of language analysis in
relation to questions of national origin in refugee cases.
The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law
Eades, Diana. 2005. Applied linguistics and
language analysis in asylum seeker cases. Applied
Linguistics 26(4): 503-526.
Criticism of the Guidelines
Despite the broad endorsement by many professional
associations of linguists, several criticisms and controversies have arisen
pertaining to the Guidelines, either disputing points made in them,
touching on terminology used, or identifying areas where further research is
needed. These mainly concern (1) what role if any should be played in authoring
LADO analyses by native speakers who lack linguistic qualifications, and (2) a
claim as to the nature and audience of the Guidelines. Conflicting
claims about the latter have been made in conference talks, legal submissions,
and open letters from academics; reading the Guidelines themselves
carefully may be the best starting point for resolution.
The concept of the 'native speaker' of a language is an
important one for linguistic method, theory and practice and has been the
subject of much research, though very little specifically focused on actual LADO
contexts. The Guidelines state (guideline #7) that "people without
training and expertise in linguistic analysis should not be asked for such
expertise, even if they are native speakers." This position is accepted by
several stakeholders (e.g. the Dutch De Taalstudio agency, the Swiss
government's Lingua office, and implicitly by the German government's BAMF
bureau, which "orders reports from professional linguists", Verrips 2010:287).
By contrast, an alternative method exists in which "the actual
analysis is carried out by a (native) speaker, the 'language analyst', instead
of a specialized professional linguist" (Verrips 2010:287), a method used by the
Dutch government bureau OCILA (Office for Country Information and Language
Analysis) and two Swedish commercial agencies. The latter
method is frequently the object of litigation in asylum appeals cases, and the
native speaker issue is often referred to in the LADO literature, e.g. Eades
(2010a), Cambier-Langeveld (2010a, b), and responses to the latter by Fraser
(2011b, in press) and Verrips (2011b, in press). Most linguists would agree that
further research into the native speaker concept is to be welcomed, including in
the LADO context. A further issue here is the legal definition of 'expert' and
'expertise' in various jurisdictions, which frequently requires formal
qualifications and standard academic criteria; see entries in the LARG
Bibliography and relevant case law.
The International Association for Forensic Phonetics and
Acoustics (IAFPA) is a scholarly body,
including forensic phonetics experts (some of whom have been involved as
researchers or practitioners in LADO), which maintains an interest in LADO.
IAFPA has never considered a motion to endorse the Guidelines, but at
its 2009 Annual Conference held in Cambridge, UK, IAFPA passed a
"Language and determination of national identity cases". This resolution was
proposed by a Working Group chaired by Dr. Tina Cambier-Langeveld, head of the
Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service's language analysis bureau OCILA;
Prof. Anders Eriksson of the University of Gothenburg, then on the advisory
board of Swedish commercial agency Verified; and two independent academics, Dr.
Sylvia Moosmüller of the Acoustic Research Institute, Vienna; and Dr. Linda
Shockey, University of Reading, UK.
The IAFPA resolution calls inter alia for recognition
of "the contribution to be made by... trained native speakers... working under
the guidance and supervision of... linguists", a method utilised by OCILA and
some commercial companies as noted above. The IAFPA resolution is discussed by
its authors in IAFPA's 2009 newsletter, and in Moosmüller (2010),
Cambier-Langeveld (2010a, b), Fraser (2009) and (2011b, in press). It has been
argued by critics that the alternative method mentioned in the Resolution method
appears to violate IAFPA's own professional
code of practice, point 10, which
states that "Members' reports should not include or exclude any material which
has been suggested by others (in particular by those instructing them) unless
that Member has formed an independent view." The IAFPA Working Group has been
disbanded but debate over the Resolution and its significance continues, in part
because it has also been cited in legal submissions, sometimes in opposition to
The Future of the Guidelines
In a recent review article, Dr. Diana Eades wrote, “Most of
the basic information in the Guidelines about investigation of the
relationship between the speech of asylum speakers and their claimed origins is
at an introductory level of linguistics and remains uncontroversial among
linguists” (Eades 2010a:39), which the document's broad endorsement (below) confirms. She also noted
that “many linguistic issues involved in LADO are in need of research and
The Guidelines have established a basic reference
point but further work is required. The primary mission of the Language and
Asylum Research Group is to facilitate and support research and discussion of
the many critical issues which arise in LADO work – not just among linguists,
but also other academics, professionals and workers concerned with refugee and
asylum issues - in the spirit of and extending the scope of the Guidelines.