First Information Report (FIR) as a Distinct Genre of Legalese: A Corpus-based Forensic Analysis


  • Shaheen-ul-Zaman Lecturer, Department of English, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad, Pakistan. Author
  • Aziz Ullah Khan Assistant Prof, Department of English, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad, Pakistan. Author
  • Ayyaz Mahmood Assistant Prof, Department of English, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad, Pakistan. Author



Forensic linguistics deals with the use of linguistic knowledge to help solve crimes. It is an interface between language, crime, and the law. A First Information Report (FIR) is the first step in the criminal justice system to decide crimes. The language used in an FIR has wide implications in the process of administration of justice. This study was conducted to investigate how the language of FIRs is distinctive as compared to ordinary discourse, thereby constituting a genre. It further explored the characteristic linguistic features of FIRs. The data consisted of 126 FIRs (in English) registered in different police stations of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) during the year 2013. A small corpus of FIRs was then developed for the analysis of the language of FIRs. The methodology for the study was developed by synthesizing Genre Theory, Corpus-based strategies in linguistics research, and Forensic Linguistics. Data was analyzed at the macro level to determine the structure of FIRs. It was found that the main part of the FIR comprised the narrative in which complainants told their stories to the police officers. Linguistic features of FIRs at a micro level were analyzed with the help of methods devised in the light of previous research in discourse analysis. Distinctive linguistic features of FIRs were noted with the help of the electronic software AntConc. Findings of the analysis of the structure and the language of the FIRs point to the fact that FIRs are a separate genre in legal discourse, with distinct textual and textural features and moves. This study may be helpful to the law majors, the new entrants in the police department, and the teachers teaching English for occupational purposes.


Abbas, A. (2013). Semantic structure of MPhil thesis introduction section. A genre

analysis. An unpublished thesis of MPhil. Islamabad: Air University

Anthony, L. (2002). AntConc: Design and development of a freeware corpus analysis toolkit for

technical writing classroom. IEEE international conference proceedings.

Barnbook, G, Danielsson, P., & Mahlberg, M. (eds.) . (2005). Meaningful texts. London/New

York: Continuum.

Bergen, K. (2012). Louder than words: The new science how the mind makes

meaning. California, CA: Basic Books.

Bhatia, V. K. (1982). An investigation into formal and functional characteristics of

qualifications in legislative writing and its application to English for academic legal

purposes. An unpublished PhD thesis. University of Aston: Birmingham.

Bhatia, V. K. (1983). Simplification vs easification: the case of legal texts. Applied Linguistics,

(1), 42-54.

Bhatia, V. K., & Swales, J. M. (1983). An approach to the linguistic study of legal

documents. Fachsprache, 5(3), 98-108.

Bhatia, V. K. (1984). Syntactic discontinuity in legislative writing and its implications for

academic legal purposes, in A. K. Pugh and J.M. Ulijin (eds). Reading for Professional

Purposes (pp. 90-96). London: Heinemann Education Books.

Bhatia, V. K. (1992). Pragmatics of use of nominals in academic and professional genres.

Pragmatics and Language learning: Monograph Series, L. F. Bohmion and Y. Kackru,

Urbanahampaigns (eds.), 3 (1), 217-30. USA: University of Illinois.

Bhatia,V.K.(2004). Words of written discourse: A genre-based view. London and New York:


Blacks Law Dictionary. (1990). 6th edn, St Paul, Minn: West Publishing co.

Broeders, A.(2001). Forensic speech and audio analysis forensic linguistics. 13th Interpol

Forensic Science Symposium, Lyon, France, Netherland Forensic Institute: Ministry of

justice. Retrieved from

Candlin, C. N. & Bhatia, V. K. (1998). The project report on strategies and competencies in

legal communication: A study to investigate the communicative needs of legal

professionals. Hong Kong: The Law Society of Hong Kong.

Candlin, C.N., Bhatia, V.K. and Jensen, C. (2002). Must the words collide? Professional and

academic discourse in study and practice of law, in G. Corlese and P. Riley (eds.),

Domain-Specific English: Textual Practice Across Communities and Classroom. Bem:

Verlage Peter Lang Ac, 101-14.

Conley, J. and O, Bar, M.(2005). Just words: law, language and power.2ndedn. Chicago:

University of Chicago Press.

Coulthart, M. and Johnson, A.(2007). An introduction to forensic linguistics: Language in

evidence. London and New York: Routledge.

Coulthart, M. and Johnson ,A.(eds.). (2010).The Routledge handbook of forensic linguistics.

London and New York: Routledge.

Agleson, R. D. (1988). Efficiency in legal drafting, in D. Kelly, (ed.). Essay in Legislative

Drafting: In Honour of I.Q. Ewens, CMG, CBe, QC. Adelaide: The Adelaide Law

Review Association, University of Adelaide,13-27.

Edward, L. (2006). Legal writing: Process, analysis, and organization. 4th edn. New York:


Filipovic, L. (2013). Constructing causation in language and memory: implications for access to

justice in multilingual interaction. The International Journal of Speech, Language and

the Law, 20, 78-93.

Flowerdrew, L. (2005). An integration of corpus-based and genre-based approaches to text

analysis in EAP/ESP: Counter criticism against corpus-based methodology. English for

Specific Purposes, 24, 321-32.

Gibbons, J. (2003). Forensic linguistics: An introduction to the language in justice system.

Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Gibbons, J. and Turella, M. (2008). Dimensions of forensic linguistics. Amesterdam/Philadelphia:

John Benjamin Publishing Company.

Gold, N. (ed.) (1982). Essay in legal education. Centre of Studies in Canadian Legal Education,

Toronto: Butterworth.

Gustafsson, M. (1975). Some syntactic properties of English law language. Turkey: University

of Turkey.

Hillier, H. (2004). Analyzing real texts. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hyland, K. (2008). As can be seen: Lexical bundles and disciplinary variation English for

specific purposes.

Hunston, S. (2002). Corpora in applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Khan, I. (2013). Genre analysis of literature review section of MPhil dissertations. An

unpublished thesis of MPhil. Islamabad: Air University.

Kennedy, G. (2000). An introduction to corpus linguistics. London/ New York: Longman.

Kurzen, D. (2013). Foreign and archaic phrases in legal texts. The International Journal of

Speech, Language and the Law, 20, 1-19.

Martin, J. and Rose, D. (2007). Working with discourse: Meaning beyond the clause. London and

New York: Continuum.

Mattila, H. (2006). Comparative legal linguistics. C. Goddard, (trans.) Aldershot: Ashgate.

McGregor, W. B. (1988). Structural analysis of police-tracker story genre in Gooniyandi.

Oceania, 58(4); 290-304. Oceania Publications: University of Sydney.

Mcmenamin, G. (2002). Forensic linguistics: Advances in forensic stylistics. Florida: CRC


Mellinkof, D. (1963). The language of the law. Boston: Little Brown and Co.

Morton, J. (2009). Genre and competence: A case study of contextualization in academic speech

genre. English for Specific Purpose, 28(4), 217-229.

Olsson, J. (2003). Forensic linguistics: An introduction to language in the justice system.

Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Olsson, J. (2008). Forensic linguistics.2nd edn. London and New York: Continuum International

Publishing Group.

Olsson, J. (2012). Word crime: solving crime through forensic linguistics. New York, NY:


Ooi, V. Y. (2001). Investigation and teaching genres using world wide web, in M. Ghadessy,

A.Henry and R. L. Roseberry (eds.).Small Corpus Studies and ELT. Amesterdom: John

Benjamins, 175-213.

Paltridge, B. (2001). Genre and language learning classroom. Ann Arbor: University of

Michigan Press.

Paltridge, B. (2006). Discourse aanalysis. London and New York: Continuum.

Qureshi, A. M. (2011). Analyzing admission offer letters as A genre: A corpus-based study.

An unpublished, thesis of MPhil. Islamabad: International Islamic University.

Rahman. T. (2010). Language policy, identity, and eligion. Islamabad: Quaid-e-Azam


Reppen, R. and Simpson, R. (2004). Corpus linguistics, in N. Schmitt (ed.), An introduction to

applied linguistics. London: Arnold, 92-111.

Robeiro, M. R. (2010). Judiciary police system of genres: A genre analysis of police reports

on language crimes against honour. An unpublished Thesis of BS. Federal University of

Santa Maria: Brazil.

Schane, S. (2006). Language and the law. London and New York: Continuum.

Shehzad, W. (2005). A corpus-based genre analysis: Computer science research article

introductions. An Unpublished thesis of PhD.Islamabad: National University of Modern


Shuy, W. (2005). Creating language crime: How law enforcement uses (and misuses)

language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shuy, W.and Tiersma, P. (1999). Legal language. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Shuy, W. and Tiersma, P. (2005). Speaking of crime: The language of criminal justice. Chicago:

Chicago University Press.

Simpson, R. and Swales, J.M. (2001). Corpus linguistics in North America. Ann Arbor:

University of Michigan Press.

Spenser, A. (1975). Noun-verb combination in law. Birmingham: Lsu University of Aston

Stanly, R. (1984). The recognition of macrostructure: A pilot study. Reading in Foreign

Language, 2, 156-68.

Stein, G. (1999). Genres of discourse and definition of literature. Discourse Process, 28, 109-120.

Stubbs, M. (2004). Text and corpus analysis: Computer-assisted studies of language and

culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Swales, J. M. (1981). Definitions in science and law: A case for subject specific ESP matters.

Fachsprache , 81, 106-112.

Swales, J. M. (1982). The case of cases in academic legal purposes. IRAL, 20, 139-48.

Swales, J. M. and Bhatia, V. (1983). An approach to the linguistic study of legal documents.

Fachsprache , 5(3), 98-108.

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Swales, J.M. (2004). Research genre: Exploration and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Usmani, S.(under process). Genre nalysis of muslim family laws of Pakistan. An unpublished

thesis of MPhil. Islamabad: Air University.

William, G. (1982). Learning the law. London: Stevens and Sons.




How to Cite

Shaheen-ul-Zaman, Aziz Ullah Khan, & Ayyaz Mahmood. (2024). First Information Report (FIR) as a Distinct Genre of Legalese: A Corpus-based Forensic Analysis. University of Chitral Journal of Linguistics and Literature, 8(I), 150-161.