Idiolect identification

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Idiolect identification

  1. 1. Two of the following texts were written by the same author, but which?
  2. 2. A <ul><li>We shook hands. My inability to recall that particular moment more precisely is disappointing: the handshake is the threshold act, the beginning of politics. I've seen him do it two million times now, but I couldn't tell you how he does it, the right-handed part of it—the strength, quality, duration of it, the rudiments of pressing the flesh. I can, however, tell you a whole lot about what he does with his other hand. He is a genius with it. He might put it on your elbow, or up by your biceps: these are basic, reflexive moves. He is interested in you. He is honored to meet you. </li></ul>
  3. 3. B <ul><li>This man - forties or fifties, Chinese - smoked like a character in a film noir. Elegantly. Beautifully. His hands held the cigarette just so. It was delicate yet masculine. Instead of blowing out a guilty jet of smoke to the side, he exhaled a beautiful silver plume around him. He was confident in his smoking, he liked his smoking, and he was unapologetic. He did not finish with the nervous tap- tap-squish of the teenage closet puffer who continued the habit into adulthood or the pitch-and-ignore of the furtive doorway smoker. He did it with a final and decisive chess move of extinguishment. It even bordered on sexy. </li></ul>
  4. 4. C <ul><li>We were sweeping up into the library, the librarian in tow, and now he had his big ears on. She was explaining her program and he was in heavy listening mode, the most aggressive listening the world has ever known: aerobic listening. (...) He was doing this now, with the librarian, and she was staggering under it. She missed a step; he reached out, steadied her. She was middle-aged, pushing fifty, hair dyed auburn to blot the gray, unexceptional except for her legs, which were shocking, a gift from God. Had he noticed the legs when she almost went down on the stair? I couldn't tell. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Which two texts were written by the same author? Write down three pairs of quotes (short – max four words) to prove your link.
  6. 6. Language fingerprints <ul><li>Think about the consequences this has for the way people use language. One of these is that knowledge about an individual’s language use can be used in detecting an individual’s identity. </li></ul><ul><li>Give anonymous offenders enough verbal rope and column inches, and they will hang themselves for you, every time. </li></ul><ul><li>Don Foster, Author Unknown </li></ul><ul><li>Early in 1996 Don Foster used techniques of close linguistic analysis to identify the author of Primary Colors, a novel published anonymously which satirised Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign. Although Joe Klein initially denied that he wrote it, he has since admitted that Don Foster nabbed him good and proper. The first and third texts above are excerpts from this novel. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>As a result of this work, the FBI asked him to help in the trial of Theodore Kaczynski, the man accused of being the Unabomber, responsible for 16 bombings in the USA between 1978 and 1995. His brother had grassed him up, and the FBI had searched his home and found the same kind of bomb-making gear that had been used, but to be on the safe side, they got Foster to analyse the letters the Unabomber wrote to the newspapers to claim credit for his destruction. The judge considered that Foster’s evidence was critical in convicting Kaczynski. </li></ul><ul><li>On a less serious note, Foster was asked to identify the author of the blog allegedly written by a London call-girl pseudonymously known as Belle du Jour. Debate raged as to whether this was a real call-girl, or a wannabe writer faking it. The writer did not want to be revealed, especially as she was getting a book deal, which could have been undermined if the authenticity of the blog were challenged. Foster named the writer as Sarah Champion, a 33 year old writer from Manchester. It took him 20 minutes on Google... </li></ul><ul><li>The middle text above is an excerpt from this blog. This identity exposé was also denied but all of these cases raise the interesting idea that we each have a unique linguistic fingerprint. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>In summary: </li></ul><ul><li>Idiolect: The unique combination of words, expressions and constructions that an individual habitually uses. If you have ever mimicked a teacher’s habitual way of speaking to a class, you have noticed features of his/her idiolect. </li></ul><ul><li>Sociolect: The kind of language we draw on to display our membership of specific social groups, eg. age, gender, social class, ethnicity, occupation, interests. </li></ul><ul><li>Dialect: The lexis and grammar of a specific geographical area. (Can also include accent) </li></ul>
  9. 9. BUT… <ul><li>Never fixed </li></ul><ul><li>Never predictable </li></ul><ul><li>Never permanent </li></ul>

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