Colloquium: Jack Grieve, University of Birmingham

October 19, 2020

Professor Jack Grieve (University of Birmingham)

Title: Resolving Cases of Disputed Authorship through Linguistic Analysis

Date/time: Thursday, October 29 at 9:30 am

Place: Remote (Zoom)

Jack Grieve received his BA and MA in linguistics from SFU and his PhD from Northern Arizona University. His research on sociolinguistics and dialectology uses corpus data to study lexical variation. His colloquium expands on the MA thesis work he did at SFU and will describe how linguists can determine the author of an anonymous work through linguistic analysis.

Click here to register. Registration is required for this colloquium and is open to the SFU community and members of the broader linguistics community. A Zoom link will be emailed to all registrants the day before the colloquium.

Abstract: Dating back at least to research on Shakespeare in late 18th century, one of the longest standing applications of linguistic analysis has been to the problem of inferring information about the author of a text of anonymous or disputed authorship. Over the centuries, analysts have developed a wide range of methods for attributing authorship with remarkable accuracy, so long as the texts under analysis meet certain criteria. However, short texts are still especially problematic, as they provide relatively little information upon which to base attributions. The rise of online communication over the past few decades, which encourages the production of both short and anonymous texts, has only highlighted this challenge. In this presentation, I therefore discuss new methods for analysing the authorship of short texts, exemplified through a series of well known cases I have worked on in recent years -- ranging from historical letters to forensic evidence to presidential tweets. In addition, I conclude by considering what research on authorship analysis reveals about the general causes of language variation and change.