Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

Dr Chris Heffer


Dr Chris Heffer Position: Senior Lecturer Email:
Telephone: +44(0)29 208 70276
Extension: 70276
Location: John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cathays, Cardiff

Research Group

Centre for Language and Communication Research

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

Professional and Public Discourse Research Group

Call: Cardiff Language and Law

Research Interests

Forensic linguistics, legal-lay communication, narrative, persuasion, rhetoric, lying and deception,

discourse analysis, language and culture, corpus linguistics, linguistic ideologies.

Selected Publications

Heffer, C., Rock, F. E. and Conley, J. eds. 2013. Legal-lay communication: textual travels in the law. Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heffer, C. 2013. Projecting voice: towards an agentive understanding of a critical capacity. Working paper. Cardiff: Cardiff University. 

Heffer, C. 2013. Revelation and rhetoric: a critical model of forensic discourseInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law 26(2), pp. 459-485. (10.1007/s11196-013-9315-z)

Heffer, C. 2013. Communication and magic: Authorized voice, legal-linguistic habitus and the recontextualization of 'beyond reasonable doubt'. In: Heffer, C., Rock, F. E. and Conley, J. M. eds. Legal-Lay Communication: Textual Travels in the Law.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, pp. 206-225.

Heffer, C. 2012. Narrative navigation: narrative practices in forensic discourseNarrative Inquiry 22(2), pp. 267-286. (10.1075/ni.22.2.04hef)

Heffer, C. 2005. The Language of Jury Trial: A Corpus-aided Analysis of Legal-Lay Discourse. Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.




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.


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.