When linguists talk about the historical relationship between languages, they use a tree metaphor. An ancient source (say, Indo-European) has various branches (e.g., Romance, Germanic), which themselves have branches (West Germanic, North Germanic), which feed into specific languages (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian). Lessons on language families are often illustrated with a simple tree diagram that has all the information but lacks imagination. There’s no reason linguistics has to be so visually uninspiring. Minna Sundberg, creator of the webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent, a story set in a lushly imagined post-apocalyptic Nordic world, has drawn the antidote to the boring linguistic tree diagram.
The software…used—the Java Authorship Attribution Program—is open source and freely available on GitHub for download. The academics studied the machine-readable text of Cuckoo’s and compared it to Rowling’s previous novel. In the course of doing so, they discovered a number of linguistic signatures that pointed to the author of Harry Potter. The software is predicated on the analysis of syntax, style and punctuation, but just as importantly on the distinctive use of prepositions and articles. It turns out writers can change sentence length and rhythm and can cater to a new audience, but they’re unlikely to change how they use “around” and “at” and “on.”
Read the full story: Open Source Solve[d] J.K. Rowling Mystery – The Official Rackspace Blog.