Prof. Peter L. Patrick
Language & Linguistics
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Essex, UK
+44 (0) 1206 872088

Prof. Monika Schmid Language & Linguistics University of Essex & University of Groningen
+44 (0) 1206 872089  

Dr. Karin Zwaan
Centre for Migration Law Radboud University Nijmegen P.O. Box 9049
6500KK Nijmegen
the Netherlands
+31 24 361.2934


LADO Guidelines

magnifier w/MidEast map - photoLARG 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.


Endorsement of the Guidelines

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”.

Link Organization Details
AAAL American Association for Applied Linguistics Endorsed the Guidelines at annual business meeting on 19 June 2006. Follow 'Outreach/Position Statements' link.
AIDA Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe Endorsed the Guidelines in General Assembly on 9 Sept 2006.
ALAA Applied Linguistics Association of Australia Endorsed the Guidelines in 2005.
ALS Australian Linguistic Society Unanimously adopted motion endorsing the Guidelines  at annual general meeting of Sept 2005. Follow 'About/Policies'.
ANELA Nederlandse Vereniging voor Toegepaste Taalwetenschaap (Dutch Association of Applied Linguistics) Endorsed the Guidelines in 2007.
AVT Algemene Vereniging voor Taalwetenschaap  (Dutch Society for General Linguistics) endorsed the Guidelines in 2006.
BAAL British Association for Applied Linguistics Executive Committee endorsed the Guidelines in 2005. Follow 'Resources' link.

Canadian Linguistics Association/Association Canadienne de Linguistique

ACL-CLA membership endorsed the Guidelines in 2012, announced January 2013.

IAFL 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 'Resources' link.
ILTA International Language Testing Association Endorsed by ILTA on 21 Aug 2018
LAGB Linguistic Association of Great Britain Motion endorsing the Guidelines and recommending them to LAGB membership was adopted without reservation at Sept 2005 AGM. Follow 'Home/Annual Meetings' link.
LSA Linguistic Society of America Endorsed the Guidelines at annual  business meeting of 9 Jan 2009, with no votes against. 'Resolutions' link.
SPCL 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 Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, and the International Association of Forensic Linguists.

The Audience for the Guidelines

The Guidelines were intended for the guidance of both language professionals and concerned government agencies and NGOs, including both:

  • 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 detail:

  • 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 Applied Linguistics, 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 Asylmagasin - 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 11(2): 261-266.

  • 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 resolution concerning "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 Guidelines.

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 clarification”.

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.