Identifying the Linguistic Markers of a Liar

By February 28, 2017Uncategorized

Lying Pinocchio figure


How do you tell if a person is lying? Many people have an easy time looking for visual cues from a lying person such as fidgeting or avoiding eye contact. But what if you’re talking to a person over the phone or someone good at hiding common signs of body language that indicates lying? You also have to be able to tell if a person is lying just by listening for certain linguistic markers – verbal cues.

Being able to identify linguistic markers is important, especially if you haven’t hired a private investigator to check if a person is hiding something from you yet. This can be a common problem, especially if you’re dealing with someone with trust issues or when talking about big transactions. Protect yourself from liars by keeping an ear out for the following:

  1. Too much unnecessary info

When a person is telling the truth, they tend to go into more details that are relevant to the topic at hand. This is because they know what they are talking about. For someone just making up stuff, they tend to “wing it” and compensate by talking about irrelevant information with the hopes of veering the conversation away from the topic.

  1. Talking too slow or too fast

A person telling the truth can speak about something without that much of a problem. However, liars may have to pause or drag out their words to “buy them time” and make sure what they’re saying still makes sense. On the other end of the scale are liars talking too fast so that listeners have less time to miss anything erroneous with their statements.

  1. Verbal tics or unexpected stuttering

Most liars try to make stuff up as they speak, so you’ll often hear liars running out of words every now and then. They try to fill brief moments of speechlessness with  excessive uses of verbal tics such as ‘um’ or ‘err’, or even adding short phrases such as ‘something like that’. In some cases, a liar could fumble when speaking, causing them to stutter unexpectedly.

  1. Repeating the same points

When a liar doesn’t have much to say, they tend to make up for having nothing much to say by repeating what they have already told you. Repeating statements may also be their attempt of emphasizing the validity of what they are saying in hopes that you won’t keep probing into it.

  1. Long pauses

Sometimes, the complete opposite of “speaking too much” happens to liars. They end up not actually saying anything at all. A long, unexpected pause during a conversation could very well be a sign saying “I’m out of things to make up!”. Ask a person why they paused and this could even throw them off-guard and fumble even more.

  1. Speaking in low volume all of a sudden

Sometimes, you’ll catch a liar saying disclaimers or statements that could otherwise disprove the lie they are making up, but you’ll notice that they’ll say it in a much quieter voice. For some liars, it’s their way of saying “at least I’m telling you that not everything is true and it’s on you if you failed to hear that”. This usually happens when talking about topics where plenty of details are involved.

  1. Speaking in a higher than usual pitch

A lot of liars feel anxious when telling a lie, and that can reflect on how their voice sounds. When tensed up, a liar may speak in a higher than average pitch. This is most noticeable when you’re talking to a liar that you have known for a long time (a family member, friend, or domestic partner) since you’re used to their usual talking pitch.

More than one linguistic marker may be observed in a single conversation, but it completely depends on the person telling the lie. This is why being familiar with all the linguistic markers of a liar is important to protect yourself from deceptive tongues.