Bridging the gap between stylistic and cognitive approaches to authorship analysis using systemic functional linguistics and multidimensional analysis

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In the present state of the art of authorship attribution there seems to be an opposition between two approaches: cognitive and stylistic methodologies. It is proposed in this article that these two approaches are complementary and that the apparent gap between them can be bridged using Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and in particular some of its theoretical constructions, such as codal variation. This article deals with the theoretical explanation of why such a theory would solve the debate between the two approaches and shows how these two views of authorship attribution are indeed complementary. Although the article is fundamentally theoretical, two example experimental trials are reported to show how this theory can be developed into a workable methodology of doing authorship attribution. In Trial 1, a SFL analysis was carried out on a small dataset consisting of three 300-word texts collected from three different authors whose socio-demographic background matched across a number of parameters. This trial led to some conclusions about developing a methodology based on SFL and suggested the development of another trial, which might hint at a more accurate and useful methodology. In Trial 2, Biber's (1988) multidimensional framework is employed, and a final methodology of authorship analysis based on this kind of analysis is proposed for future research.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-202
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Speech, Language and the Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2013


  • authorship attribution, forensic stylistics, multidimensional analysis, systemic functional linguistics


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