Author identification, idiolect and linguistic uniqueness

Malcolm Coulthard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    For forty years linguists have talked about idiolect and the uniqueness of individual utterances. This article explores how far these two concepts can be used to answer certain questions about the authorship of written documents—for instance how similar can two student essays be before one begins to suspect plagiarism? The article examines two ways of measuring similarity: the proportion of shared vocabulary and the number and length of shared phrases, and illustrates with examples drawn from both actual criminal court cases and incidents of student plagiarism. The article ends by engaging with Solan and Tiersma's contribution to this volume and considering whether such forensic linguistic evidence would be acceptable in American courts as well as how it might successfully be presented to a lay audience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)431-447
    Number of pages17
    JournalApplied Linguistics
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004

    Bibliographical note

    This is an electronic version of an article published in Applied Linguistics, Oxford University Press, Volume 25(4), Pg 431-447 Copyright of the Oxford University Press


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