Dr Tatiana Tkacukova
Senior Lecturer and MA English Linguistics Course Director
Dr Tatiana Tkacukova is Senior Lecturer in English Language at Birmingham City University. Tatiana’s interdisciplinary research focuses on the language of the law and courtroom discourse with a specific interest on the interplay between legal and lay communication styles in courtroom settings. Her research contributes to improved understanding of how people without any legal experience present their cases in court and how self-representation impacts the role of the judiciary, court administration and the legal profession. Tatiana has held research funding from the EU Marie Curie Fellowship scheme, BA/Leverhulme and AHRC.
Tatiana’s other research interests include police interviewing techniques, deception detection, English language proficiency assessment for forensic purposes as well as experiences of vulnerable litigants/victims/witnesses and non-native English speakers with legal proceedings in England and Wales.
In her research and teaching, Tatiana builds on her prior work experience of serving as a court interpreter as well as teaching English as a Foreign Language at universities abroad. Tatiana regularly gives invited talks and participates in such external activities as teaching CPD workshops, acting as an expert evaluator of EU funded large scale collaborative projects, contributing to professional discussions (e.g. Transparency Projects) and acting an external advisor (JUSTICE).
- PhD in Applied Linguistics, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
- MA (hons) in English Language and Literature, Russian Language and Literature, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
- MA (hons) in Czech Language and Literature, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
- Cambridge/RSA CELTA
- Member of the International Association of Forensic Linguistics
- Member of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group
- Member of the Socio-Legal Studies Association
- Member of the editorial board of The International Journal of Language, Law and Discourse
- Contributor to Transparency Project
Tatiana is Course Director for MA in English Linguistics. She is also teaching on the BA programme: Foundations of Language, Language in Action, Grammar and Sounds, Language and Cognition, Teaching English as a Foreign Language and a new module on Forensic Linguistics (from autumn 2019).
Tatiana’s main research interests lie in the following areas:
- courtroom discourse and communication challenges of litigants in person;
- digital access to justice and online courts;
- police interviewing techniques;
- English language proficiency assessment for forensic purposes;
- experiences of digitally deprived and vulnerable litigants/victims/witnesses and non-native English speakers with legal proceedings in England and Wales.
Her other research interests include deception detection, interpreting in legal settings, corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and ESP (English for Specific Purposes).
Current and Recent Projects
2019-2022: Language of DIY Justice: Communication practices & processes
Funded by AHRC Standard Grant, EC route (in collaboration with Prof Robert Lee, Birmingham Law School and Matt Gee, R&D Unit for English Studies).
The project uses quantitative and qualitative mixed methods approach to investigate the following aspects: language used to construct perceptions around DIY Justice; legal-lay communication; and communication and elicitation processes embedded in court administration and procedures (e.g. how information and evidence is elicited through administrative steps and procedural rules). By bringing language and communication to the forefront, the project is in a unique position to explore key players and factors that shape DIY Justice:
- Litigants-in-person (LIP) and their perceptions of their experiences and roles within legal proceedings;
- judges and lawyers and their perceptions of LIPs’ capabilities and roles within legal proceedings;
- communication challenges that arise during legal-lay interactions;
- communication and elicitation processes inherent in court administrative procedures;
- communication and elicitation processes embedded in civil procedure rules.
This allows the project to take a holistic approach to DIY Justice and suggest practical ways of addressing complex language and communication-related challenges. The research pursued in the project lies within the remit of applied linguistics, administrative law and procedural law, thus combining distinct disciplines with the aim of improving access to justice in an innovative and practical way.
Read more on the project website here: https://www.bcu.ac.uk/research/stories/language-of-diy-justice-communication-practices-processes
2019 – 2020: TRAC: COVID – TRust And Communication: a Coronavirus Online VIsual Dashboard
Funded by AHRC UKRI COVID-19 Research and Innovation (in collaboration with the Principal Investigator Andrew Kehoe and co-applicants Matt Gee, Robert Lawson and Mark McGlashan)
This project aims to build a large-scale dataset of Twitter posts, which will be made available via an open-access online dashboard incorporating intuitive visualisations. The dataset will be novel in capturing not just the content of tweets, but also the content of web-pages shared in the tweets. Drawing on automated corpus linguistic methods and social network analysis, the dashboard will uncover the multi-layered content of shared information (original links, tweets, replies, retweets), alongside a deeper understanding of the online networks through which (mis)information is shared.
To demonstrate the applicability of our novel approach to a wide range of stakeholders, the methodology and dashboard will be validated through two case studies, each focussing on a potentially dangerous area of miscommunication relating to COVID-19. These case studies will approach the problem from a linguistic perspective, examining the clarity and reception of official messaging and the trustworthiness of information sources.
2018-2019: Changing landscape of access to justice: Linguistic and socio-legal analysis of online forums for Litigants in Person
Funded by BA/Leverhulme Small Grants (in collaboration with Prof Hilary Sommerlad, Leeds Law School and Matt Gee, R&D Unit for English Studies).
The project studies information and advice available for private and public children cases via social media. Since cuts in legal aid, there has been an increase in numbers of Litigants in Person (LIPs), people who represent themselves in legal proceedings without a lawyer. Without an affordable option for face-to-face legal advice, many LIPs turn to online sources and potentially McKenzie Friends (MFs), i.e. litigation friends who help LIPs represent themselves on a voluntary basis or for a fee. Within the legal community, there are serious concerns raised about the quality of information and advice provided online by MFs or online forum facilitators. Such concerns are especially justified in private and public law children cases, where the well-being and safety of children is at stake. This interdisciplinary linguistic and socio-legal study uses semi-automated text analysis tools to investigate: (1) type of information and advice LIPs are seeking; and (2) quality of information and advice they are provided with. One of the outcomes of the projects is to inform people on how to find reliable information and further sources of advice.
2018-2019: Aotearoa’s Future Courts: Accessibility and Accuracy in an Online Court
Funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation (in collaboration with the principal investigator Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, Legal Issues Centre, University of Otago, and co-applicants Dr Sally Jo Cunningham, Computer Science, University of Waikato; Dr Bridget Irvine, Law and Psychology, University of Otago; Dr David Nichols, Computer Science, University of Waikato)
This is a two-year multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional study that looks to a future where New Zealand will very likely join the rapidly growing international trend of introducing online courts for civil disputes. In anticipation of this likely development, this research aims to lay an empirical foundation for how an online court could support litigants to explain their disputes accurately and clearly. It is only if a system can achieve these goals that it can deliver the oft-touted promise of access to justice, rather than being merely a cost-saving initiative. This study uses laboratory testing to investigate the accuracy and clarity of lay people’s explanations of a dispute to a court. It compares these findings to laboratory testing of the accuracy and clarity of the perceived “gold standard” mode of litigating a dispute, a lawyer’s explanation of a dispute to a court. It then uses these findings to suggest and test how an online court might support lay people to communicate their dispute to a decision maker.
2017: Investigating impact of training for frontline police officers: the PEACE-compliant 'Structured Interview Protocol' training”
With Matt Gee, R&D Unit for English Studies and Goldsmiths' Forensic Psychology Unit.
The project draws on corpus linguistics methods to analyse (1) investigative interviews conducted by frontline police officers and (2) explore the effectiveness of the training programme on Structured Interview Protocol prepared for them by the Goldsmiths' Forensic Psychology Unit. The project compares the questioning turns by frontline officers before and after the training to quantify the extent to which post-training interviews improve in establishing structure, building rapport and providing positive reinforcement, as well as a more open questioning style, on the part of the interviewers. The project presents an opportunity to explore the intersections between forensic psychology and forensic linguistics and aims to propose potential uses of corpus linguistics for forensic psychology research and police forces.
2016: Patterns of co-operation between police interviewers with suspected sex offenders
In cooperation with Gavin Oxburgh, School of Psychology, Newcastle University.
The project explored tandem interviewing strategies for police officers when interviewing suspected sex offenders. The analysis focused on the dynamics and co-operation patterns between two interviewers, including turn-taking management and turn-taking patterns, ratio of questioning turns between the two interviewers, the function of the second interviewers’ questions and coherence links between the interviewers’ turns. The project advocates for clearer guidelines on tandem interviewing.
2016: Litigants in Person in the Civil Justice Centre: Access to Legal Information and Advice
In collaboration with CEPLER, Birmingham Law School.
This socio-legal project aimed at litigants in person took place in the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre. As a result of the project, 193 litigants in person filled in questionnaires and 25 litigants in person participated in semi-structured interviews conducted by the research team. The survey and interviews collected information on the demographics of litigants in person, types and character of cases they were involved in as well as their prior access to legal and procedural advice, experience with online sources of information, level of satisfaction and experience with the judiciary and legal representatives for the other party.
2013-2015: EU-funded Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for Career Development Grant, Centre for Forensic Linguistics, Aston University
The project examined a corpus of trial transcripts from cases with litigants in person tried in England and Wales, USA and Canada. The focus was on communication challenges experienced by unrepresented litigants when conducting witness examination, delivering opening and closing arguments and discussing procedural matters with judges and legal representatives for the opposing party. A part of the project focused on a multi-modal discourse analysis of legal-lay communication in family court as a case study focusing on more specific linguistic aspects in legal settings.
Tatiana’s future projects aim to explore digital access to justice in civil and criminal proceedings and the role of technology in supporting litigants in person. Her research will also focus on digitally deprived and vulnerable litigants/victims/witnesses. Tatiana is equally keen to start projects on experiences of non-native speakers with the legal system in England and Wales as well as develop methodology for assessing English language proficiency for forensic purposes.
Tatiana is interested in supervising PhD students in the following areas:
- Language and the law
- Legal-lay communication
- Courtroom discourse
- Police interviewing
- Vulnerable and digitally deprived victims/witnesses/litigants/suspects
- Rape discourse
- Deception detection
- Communication during mediation
- Police negotiation
- Linguistic aspects of memory recall
- English for Specific Purposes (especially Legal English)
- Classroom discourse
- Non-native speakers in legal settings
Many of these areas require a mixed methods approach combining linguistic analysis, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics with socio-legal, forensic psychology and pedagogical research methods. Please get in touch if you are interested in conducting research in one of the above topics or similar ones.
Tkacukova, T. (2020). “Forensic linguistics”. In Schmitt, N. and Rodgers, M. (eds), An Introduction to Applied Linguistics. 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge. 190–204.
Tkacukova, T. and Oxburgh, G. (2020). “Police interviews with suspected sex offenders: interview dynamics and cooperation pattern between police interviewers”. In Mason, M. and Rock, F. (eds), The Discourse of Police Interviews. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press. 136–155.
Tkacukova, T. (2010). “Cross-examination questioning: Lay people as cross-examiners.” In Coulthard, M. and Johnson, A. (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics. London and New York: Routledge. 333–346.
Tkacukova, T. (forthcoming, 2020). “Changing Landscape of Advice Provision: Online Forums and Social Media Run by McKenzie Friends”. Child and Family Law Quarterly.
Tkacukova,T. (2016). “Communication in family court: Financial order proceedings from the perspective of litigants in person”. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 38(4): 430-449.
Tkacukova, T. (2015). “A corpus-assisted study of the discourse marker ‘well’ as an indicator of institutional roles: Professional and lay use in court cases with litigants in person”. Corpora 10(2): 145-170.
Tkacukova, T. (2015). “Litigants in person as intruders in court”. Informatica e Diritto 16(1). 79-98.
Tkacukova, T. (2014). “Use of quotations as a narrativisation technique during cross-examination: McDonald’s Corporation v. Helen Steel and David Morris”. Explorations in Language and Law: Language and Law in Professional and Academic Settings: Analyses and Applications. vol 1. Rome: NovaLogos. 105–117.
Tkacukova, T. (2011). “Lay people as cross-examiners: A linguistic analysis of the libel case McDonald's Corporation v. Helen Steel and David Morris.” The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 17(2). 307–310.
Tkacukova, T. (2011). “Building a corpus of spoken courtroom discourse.” Topics in Linguistics. Nitra: Constantine the Philosopher University. 52 – 56.
Tkacukova, T. (2010). “The power of questioning: A case study of courtroom discourse.” Discourse and Interaction 3(2). Brno: Masaryk University. 49–61.
Tkachuk, T. (2008). “Turn-taking management during cross-examination: Lay people as cross-examiners.” Topics in Linguistics: Politeness and Interaction. Nitra: Constantine the Philosopher University. 72–77.
Tkachuk, T. (2007). “Linguistic analysis of lay advocacy: Do lay people stand a chance when representing themselves in court?” Proceedings of the Second European IAFL Conference on Forensic Linguistics / Language and the Law. Barcelona: University Pompeu Fabra. 239–247.
Tkachuk, T. (2005) “Idioms inside out: Money in English idioms”. Brno Studies in English: Masaryk University. 63–72.
Tkacukova, T. (2017). “Lessons from Forensic Linguistics for ESP provision”. Judicial Academy, Prague, Czech Republic.
Tkacukova, T. (2017). “Role of linguistics in access to justice”. UK Administrative Justice Institute. University of Sheffield.
Tkacukova, T. (2017) “Navigating the labyrinth of legal-lay communication: Litigants in person in civil proceedings”. Access to Justice Workshop. University of Leeds.
Tkacukova, T. (2014) Research talk “Communication challenges faced by litigants in person in the adversarial court proceedings”. Law School, University of Birmingham. February 17, 2014.
Tkacukova, T. (2014) Invited seminar “Communication needs of litigants in person”. Faculty of Arts, University of Birmingham.
Tkacukova, T. (2013) Invited talk “Language needs of litigants in person”. School of English, Communication and Philosophy. University of Cardiff.
Tkacukova, T. (2013) Invited talk “Methodological challenges of multi-focal and interdisciplinary research on communication needs of litigants in person”. Department of Linguistics and English Language. University of Lancaster.
Tkacukova, T. (2013) Invited talk “Linguistic challenges litigants in person face in court”. Newman University, Birmingham.
Tkacukova, T. (2012) Invited talk “Power relations during witness examination conducted by self-represented litigants”. Forensic Lab, Institute of Applied Linguistics, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.
Tkacukova, T. (2011) Invited talk “Lay people as witnesses and litigants-in-person”. Centre for Language and Communication Studies, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
Tkacukova, T. (2011) Invited talk “Questioning in institutional discourse: Courtroom, classroom and media discourse”. University of Regensburg, Germany.
Tkacukova, T., Coulthard, M. and Kredens, K. (2011) Authorship analysis report for Addleshaw Goddard, London.