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REVIEW: "Analysing for Authorship", Jill M. Farringdon

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKAAQSUM.RVW 20020825 Analysing for Authorship , Jill M. Farringdon, 1996, 0-7083-1324-8 %A Jill M. Farringdon %C 6 Gwennyth Street, Cardiff, Wales CF2
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2002
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      BKAAQSUM.RVW 20020825

      "Analysing for Authorship", Jill M. Farringdon, 1996, 0-7083-1324-8
      %A Jill M. Farringdon
      %C 6 Gwennyth Street, Cardiff, Wales CF2 4YD
      %D 1996
      %G 0-7083-1324-8
      %I University of Wales Press
      %O s.charles@...
      %P 324 p.
      %T "Analysing for Authorship: A Guide to the Cusum Technique"

      Literary critics are quite used to talking about how an author like
      Henry James would write enormously long sentences, sentences that
      would, in more modern writings, be split into smaller, more digestible
      chunks, but which were, in the days when it was considered acceptable
      for someone like Marcel Proust to write an entire book that was one
      long sentence, the norm that was to be emulated and adopted. Others
      wrote differently. Hemingway, for example. Short sentences.
      Sentence fragments. So critics are quite used to making decisions
      about authorship based upon numeric metrics.

      Cusum (or QSUM, the two terms seem to be used interchangeably in the
      book) is such a technique. Instead of looking at meanings or
      characteristic turns of phrase, the method looks at combinations of
      statistical patterns in writing, patterns that the writer is probably
      unaware of using.

      Part one is an introduction and history. Chapter one is a defence and
      a rough idea of the process, which would be stronger if we were
      presented with research indicating the likelihood of two separate
      authors having homogeneous or indistinguishable patterns. There is
      also a history of statistical stylometry studies. Details of the
      technique are provided in chapter two, somewhat weakened by errors in
      the arithmetic of the examples. (Typographical errors are rife, such
      as a reference to chapter two which actually refers to chapter three.)
      The bases of comparison are generally sentence length in proportion to
      the number of short words and words starting with vowels. This may
      sound strange, but an analysis of general word use in English
      indicates that cusum is based on syntactic structures, rather than
      content. As an example, chapter three looks at "the Back Road,"
      suspected to be by D. H. Lawrence, in comparison with other works
      known to be by Lawrence. The reasons for the setup chosen for this
      comparison are not always clear.

      Part two examines a range of uses for cusum. Chapter four considers
      the statistical fingerprinting of authors even over a change of
      literary "voice," and also notes that an editor's style can be
      identified. This is extended, in chapter five, to the ability to
      identify a translator. Amazingly, consistent patterns survive from
      childhood into adult authors, as is shown with Helen Keller's writings
      in chapter six. Chapter seven discusses the applications of cusum to
      a variety of writing forms, and notes that not even the use of dialect
      and invented languages can hide an author's signature.

      Part three looks into forensic applications. Chapter eight lists
      considerations for reports to be used in court. As in the consistency
      over time with children, chapter nine demonstrates that speakers and
      writers of English as a second language are remarkably consistent over
      time, and does some analysis of the identity of confessions. Chapter
      ten answers criticisms of the method. It raises good points, but has
      a rather confused structure. One issue raised with the cusum method
      is that it provides a chart to be interpreted rather than a single
      measure: the text notes that statistical measures are available, but
      that the graphics were felt to be more acceptable to users.

      The book finishes off with an explanation of the method from the
      inventor, A. Q. Morton.

      Cusum is a technique that deserves further study. Despite its flaws,
      the book provides valuable information.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002 BKAAQSUM.RVW 20020825

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