Identifying idiolect in forensic authorship attribution: an n-gram textbite approach

Johnson, A. and Wright, D. ORCID: 0000-0003-2300-5915, 2014. Identifying idiolect in forensic authorship attribution: an n-gram textbite approach. Language and Law / Linguagem e Direito, 1 (1), pp. 37-69. ISSN 2183-3745


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Forensic authorship attribution is concerned with identifying authors of disputed or anonymous documents, which are potentially evidential in legal cases, through the analysis of linguistic clues left behind by writers. The forensic linguist “approaches this problem of questioned authorship from the theoretical position that every native speaker has their own distinct and individual version of the language [. . . ], their own idiolect” (Coulthard, 2004: 31). However, given the diXculty in empirically substantiating a theory of idiolect, there is growing concern in the Veld that it remains too abstract to be of practical use (Kredens, 2002; Grant, 2010; Turell, 2010). Stylistic, corpus, and computational approaches to text, however, are able to identify repeated collocational patterns, or n-grams, two to six word chunks of language, similar to the popular notion of soundbites: small segments of no more than a few seconds of speech that journalists are able to recognise as having news value and which characterise the important moments of talk. The soundbite oUers an intriguing parallel for authorship attribution studies, with the following question arising: looking at any set of texts by any author, is it possible to identify ‘n-gram textbites’, small textual segments that characterise that author’s writing, providing DNA-like chunks of identifying material?

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Language and Law / Linguagem e Direito
Creators: Johnson, A. and Wright, D.
Publisher: Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
Place of Publication: Porto
Date: 2014
Volume: 1
Number: 1
ISSN: 2183-3745
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 10:36
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:34

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