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pink lily
12-10-2009, 05:26 PM
This is pretty amazing news: Rare words 'author's fingerprint' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8404025.stm)



Rare words 'author's fingerprint'

Analyses of classic authors' works provide a way to "linguistically fingerprint" them, researchers say.

The relationship between the number of words an author uses only once and the length of a work forms an identifier for them, they argue.

Analyses of works by Herman Melville, Thomas Hardy, and DH Lawrence showed these "unique word" charts are specific to each author.

The work is published in the New Journal of Physics.

Researchers also suggest each author pulls their works from a hypothetical "meta book". One description of this concept might be a framework for the way an author uses language. It is from this framework that all their works are ultimately derived.Really, isn't this amazing? I didn't know that writing could be so scientific.

Phaeal
12-10-2009, 07:05 PM
The striking absence of the word "smirk" is my fingerprint. Email and forum rants don't count.

Richard White
12-10-2009, 07:14 PM
Literary fingerprints are also used by criminal profilers whenever someone writes a letter/manefesto to the local cops to try and get a handle on the person of interest. Also helps identify copycats since no two people write/describe things the same way.

pink lily
12-10-2009, 07:18 PM
Literary fingerprints are also used by criminal profilers whenever someone writes a letter/manefesto to the local cops to try and get a handle on the person of interest. Also helps identify copycats since no two people write/describe things the same way.
Gosh, I feel silly, I knew about forensic linguistics but didn't even think about that when I posted the link to this story.

JamieFord
12-10-2009, 07:27 PM
The repeated use of the phrase, "turgid mansword," gives me away every time...

C.M.C.
12-10-2009, 07:29 PM
I understand the science behind this, but I do not, even for a second, believe it actually works. Using this method to say Shakespeare didn't write all of his plays may sound nice, but it doesn't discount the possibility he was trying to do something different. It's an interesting idea, but it's more of a hatchet than a scalpel. Surely it has something to tell us, but not enough to make us believers.

Jamesaritchie
12-10-2009, 08:35 PM
It always works, except when it doesn't, and it doesn't a LOT.

BigWords
12-11-2009, 01:23 AM
It always works, except when it doesn't, and it doesn't a LOT.

Hence the continuing arguments concerning works by Shakespeare and Homer... News such as this crops up, ooh, I'd say once every couple of years or so. Never fails to amuse me though.

Richard White
12-11-2009, 01:27 AM
Elizabeth Friedman (Wife of famous cryptanalyst William Friedman and a skilled cryptanalyst in her own right) did a review of all of Shakespeare's works to hopefully settle the whole Bacon dispute.

Not only did she back up her arguments with the linguistic sciences of the time, she also wrote her findings as a cryptogram in the book to her main rival. *grin*

ChristineR
12-11-2009, 03:09 AM
Yeah, the whole thing is depressingly circular. The very first attempt at author identification was to compare Shakespeare and Francis Bacon. They looked at the number of four and five letter words. This proved that Bacon did not write Shakespeare. Unfortunately, it "proved" that Marlowe did write Shakespeare. So they reject the number of four and five letter words as a yardstick.

If a test shows Shakespeare didn't write, say, Henry V, they reject that also. On the other hand, if a test shows that Shakespeare didn't write Titus Andronicus, they accept that test. But there are other reasons Titus might not match the other plays, such as it being early and the possibility that another author had a hand in it, which again is kind of pointless, because there's many plays that other authors probably had a hand in.