Lexicon Valley: resolving authorship controversies in the federalist papers and the wizard of oz

Lexicon Valley: How We Know L. Frank Baum Didn’t Write the 15th Oz Book

Lexicon Valley: How We Know L. Frank Baum Didn’t Write the 15th Oz Book

A show about the mysteries of English.
June 18 2012 3:51 PM

Does Your Writing Style Have a Fingerprint?

Listen to Slate’s show about the surprising way mathematicians can determine authorship.

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Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 14: “By Their Words You Shall Know Them.”

Is it possible that your writing style is identifiably unique? In the late 1800s, a Polish philosopher named Wincenty Lutosławski imagined a “future science of stylometry,” whereby the singular style of an author could be quite literally measured. In such a future, controversies over authorship would be resolved not by literary scholars but by statisticians, and data would provide the answer. Sounds like pie in the sky, right? But it turns out that Lutosławski was right. Over the past 50 years, stylometrists have fashioned a promising way to identify authorial signatures using something called “lexical glue.” Listen as Bob Garfield and I talk about how a bunch of seemingly inconspicuous words actually stand out.

You'll find every Lexicon Valley episode at slate.com/lexiconvalley, or in the player below:

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