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'Literary fingerprints' identified in study

10th December 2009

Researchers have developed a method to identify the 'literary fingerprints' of different writers, which could end disputes over authorship.

Scientists at Umea University studied works by Thomas Hardy, Herman Melville and D.H. Lawrence and created a formula which analyses individual writing styles.

The research, which is published in the New Journal of Physics, examined the pattern of new words used by different authors and found each writer has a unique word-frequency use.

In addition, the study showed the pattern of words used by each author depends on their education, vocabulary and personal preferences, labelled by the researchers as a 'meta book', and can be successfully identified by the formula.

'This meta book is an imaginary infinite book that gives a representation of the word-frequency characteristics of everything that a certain author could ever think of writing,' the experts explained.

Books studied in the research included Hardy's The Woodlanders and Jude the Obscure, Melville's Moby Dick and Israel Potter, and Lawrence's Women in Love and The Lost Girl.

In October, Sir Brian Vickers, a Shakespeare specialist at the University of London's Institute of English Studies, claimed the Bard worked with playwright Thomas Kyd on The Reign of King Edward III, after analysing the text with a computer programme.

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