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Stylometry Methods and Practices: Home

A review of various stylometry methods and programs for the digital humanities.

Stylometry Methods for the Digital Humanities

Stylometry, or authorship attribution, is one of the oldest types of digital humanities work, but there are a number of new strategies available today. This guide will review various stylometric research strategies, methods, and programs.

Use the tabs above to for more in-depth insight into some of the Methods, Programs, and Projects associated with stylometry.

History

  • Stylometry dates back to 15th century and the comparison of differing translations.
  • In 1851, August de Morgan, a British mathematician, speculated that word length might prove to be a unique marker of an author’s style.
  • Wincenty Lutosławski, Polish philosopher, published Principes de stylométrie  in 1890, thus coining the term “stylometry.”

What is Stylometry?

Stylometry uses statistical methods to analyze style in order to determine authorship. Here is an overview.

Style + Measurement = Stylometry

It is largely based in Attribution Studies and Computational Linguistics, but it can also be used for Forensic Analysis. 

This kind of study assumes that individuals (or authors) are unique and that such uniqueness is enacted in writing.

Close or Distant Reading?

Like many strategies in the digital humanities, stylometry combines traditional close reading alongside more distant reading.

Close reading

  • In literary criticism, close reading describes a sustained attention to the text, looking at word choice, syntax, and particular images, to reveal meaning. This methodology came out of New Criticism and does not rely on historical or biographical research, intending to analyze the complexities of the individual text instead.

Distant reading

  • This is a concept coined by Franco Moretti that suggests that looking at the wider scope of literature, through larger computational or archival methods, can help us see larger trends and reveal previously obscured systems within literary study.
It’s up to the researcher to look at other relevant information related to authorship using traditional research such as archives, historical background, close texutal analysis, etc.
 
Key Point: ​Stylometry can only offer statistical probability, not definitively claim authorship.
 

Subject Guide

Jaclyn Partyka
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