Friday, December 11, 2009

Style Fingerprint

We all know that different writers have a different style to their work, and we often think we can identify the author by detecting their style in a passage of text. Some scientists in Sweden have taken this idea to a mathematical extreme, and determined that each author has a distinctive style fingerprint, which can be established by cataloguing the words the use and comparing their frequencies.

A yet bolder claim emerging from the study ("The meta book and size-dependent properties of written language") is that each time an author writes, s/he is drawing on a personal "meta-book". It sounds to me that this is another way of saying that an author has a basic repertoire, and each new work is built from that repertoire.

Most Bradbury readers will be intuitively familiar with this idea, and can certainly cite example of particular linguistic tricks and techniques that Bradbury uses over and over again.

One of the clearest reports on this new study is on the BBC News site, here.

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