Overview of Authorship Attribution Essay

Overview of Authorship Attribution Essay

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Authorship attribution is one of the largest areas of Forensic Linguistics. It entails determining who wrote, or more commonly, ruling out who wrote a text when authorship is unclear. Linguists assume that each particular choice the writer makes as a whole will enable identification as authors are consistent in their choices. Linguists have three main problematic scenarios when attempting authorship attribution; there is no candidate set and a profile is required, there are many candidates for a limited sample and verification where one determines whether the suspect is the author or not. In regards to whether a communication was written by the suspect or deceased, we would need to focus upon the third scenario. Documents that would entail authorship dispute regarding a deceased individual would include wills, last testaments and suicide notes.

In the case of a suicide note being left behind the linguist has several issues to consider. Most importantly, why the deceased may have committed suicide. Normally it has little relevance to the linguist why a person commits a crime or does something but knowing the reasons why will help distinguish genuine from simulated and it is almost always the first question relatives ask. In order to discover why, it is useful to know what friends and family feel after initial grief. Common views are that the person was crazy, a coward or a loser. This popular view of suicide helps the linguist to an extent as a fake suicide note is more likely to reflect popular attitudes instead of how the person actually feels.

One of the main approaches to the methodology of authorship attribution is the Unitary Invariant Approach which was pioneered by Mendenhall (1887) who sought to distinguis...


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Grice, H.P. (1975). “Logic and Conversation”. In Cole, P. & Morgan, J.L. (Eds.) Syntax and Semantics. Vol.3, Speech Acts, p.41-58. New York: Academic Press.[Reprinted in Jaworski, A. & Coupland, N. (Eds.) (2004). The Discourse Reader. p.76-88. London: Routledge.]
Coulthard, Malcolm & Johnson, Alison. (2007). “The work of the forensic linguist”. An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence. Ch.6, p.121-143. London & New York: Routledge.
H Baayen, H van Halteren, and F Tweedie
Outside the cave of shadows: using syntactic annotation to enhance authorship attribution
Lit Linguist Computing 1996 11: 121-132.

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