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Forensic stylistics in an online world

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Forensic stylistics is the examination of style in language for the purpose of resolving litigated questions relating to disputed authorship or meaning. Forensic stylistics has been presented as evidence in a wide range of legal cases, mostly concerning the identity of the author of a document. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the use and potential of forensic stylistics in legal cases, with particular attention to analysing online activities. A review of previous legal cases where stylistics has proved significant is followed by a brief review of quantitative stylistics. The remainder of the paper discusses two empirical studies on the usefulness of a proposed simple stylistics technique, which claims 80% accuracy on determining the gender of the author just by counting the frequency of a small number of keywords. It is concluded that this technique only works in some domains of discussion, but does have some potential for initial scanning of large bodies of text.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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