Unmasking JK Rowling: The role of forensic linguistics

by Craig Evans

The recent news that crime novelist Robert Galbraith has been revealed to be none other than the world-famous creator of Harry Potter may have struck a particular chord with linguistics students, especially those who took the Applying Linguistics: Forensic Analysis module.

Here’s an article in Time detailing Patrick Juola’s (a professor of computer science at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University) involvement in revealing Rowling as the author:

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/07/15/j-k-rowlings-secret-a-forensic-linguist-explains-how-he-figured-it-out/?iid=obnetwork

There’s some interesting information about the distinctiveness of articles and prepositions, and also reference to a free-to-download computer program, the Java Graphical Authorship Attribution Program, to help with the process.

I would say, however, that the author of the article may want to exercise some caution when using the description ‘authorial fingerprint’, for the appropriateness of the term is the source of considerable debate.

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