February 12, 2007

Antonio Smith, Forensic Linguist

Over at Narbonic, Director's Cut, Shaenon K. Garrity discusses the adventures of Antonio Smith, Forensic Linguist (adventures continued here , here and here):

As Shaenon's commentary explains,

At last Antonio Smith, forensic linguist, makes his stunning transformation into ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST. He only gets the all-caps treatment when his hat's on.

I submit that this isn't any more ridiculous than a swashbuckling, whip-cracking archeologist. I mean, archeologists. With the little brushes and plaster casts. Or whatever it is they use. All I'm saying is, if an archeologist can do it, surely a linguist can.

Would it be ungrateful to observe that no respectable modern approach to authorship attribution is likely to use a technique whose figure of merit is a correlation? Yes, it would, so I won't follow up on this; but you can, if you want, by checking out the historical survey and the references in Patrick Juola, John Sofko and Patrick Brenna, "A Prototype for Authorship Attribution Studies", Literary and Linguisic Computing, 21(2) 169-178, 2006.

Please also note that Antonio Smith does eventually track the evil genius, Dr. Helen B. Narbon, to her lair. But she's ready for him, with the traditional giant rotating blade and also clean floors:

Not to speak of Mell Kelly, intern:

Of course, by the end of the episode, Mell is interning in forensic linguistics. For a full credit.

As we discussed out last week, the archeologist Indiana Jones was of course also trained in linguistics. And you can read about some real-life forensic linguistics in Roger Shuy's Language Log posts,

Antonio Smith starred in the early days of Narbonic, back in 2000 or so. Narbonic continued to the end of 2006, but unfortunately, the LSA declined to run it in Language (well, more precisely, the LSA was never aware of the opportunity to run it in Language), and so Smith dropped out of the plot.

[Hat tip to Matt Dalen]

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 12, 2007 07:26 AM