Difference between revisions of "The linguistic fingerprint"

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'''Referentin: Daniela Berger'''
<h1>The linguistic fingerprint -- Silver bullet or mere myth?</h1>
<p>In the wake of crime science shows like CSI and high profile criminal cases
like the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the field of forensic linguistics has come to
the attention of the general public. Today many laypersons know the term
"linguistic fingerprint" and they have certain expectations about what it
<p>But these expectations are largely unfounded.</p>
<p>The lack of real knowledge about this technique are largely due to its
ill-chosen "nickname". The term "linguistic <i>fingerprint</i>" puts it into
the neighborhood of the "actual", i.e. dactyloscopic fingerprint and the
"genetic fingerprint". But this is misleading.<br>
Both in fingerprinting and in DNA analysis there are procedures for collecting
samples, for analysing them, for comparing them to samples taken from the
suspect(s) and for interpreting the results. These procedures are known for
their reliability today, but it took years of research to get to this point.
Still, today we are at a point where a fingerprint left at a crime scene can
safely be used to to confirm the guilt of a suspect.</p>
<p>The use of the fingerprint metaphor in the context of forensic linguistics
and authorship attribution implies that research in this field has reached the
same maturity. In reality, some promising results have been found, but so far
the linguistic community was not able to prove that a certain set of markers
can be reliably used to confirm a person's authorship of a text. Many questions
are still left to be answered.</p>
<p>In this talk I will give definitions of the relevant terms and concepts. </p>
<p>Then I will give an overview over the different fields of interest that are
subsumed under "forensic linguistics". From these I chose authorship
attribution as the target of a state-of-the-art report. </p>
<p>I will present several interesting approaches, demonstrate their application
with the help of real life examples where possible, and discuss their merits
and limitations. The main focus here will be
<li>a) on written texts such as blog entries / comments and forum articles and
<li>b) on the source code of software such as viruses</li>
<p>I will show that forensic linguistics procedures are far from having the same
accuracy as fingerprinting procedures, but that - at best - they can be used to
prove that the same person did or did not write a set of texts. And if that is
not possible they can still be used to gather other, more general clues about
the author, perhaps about his gender or his education. </p>
<p>For the time being this does not make the linguistic fingerprint the
proverbial silver bullet, but rather it makes forensic linguistics one valuable
tool in the criminological toolbox.</p>

Revision as of 15:44, 21 October 2007