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An Authorship Analysis Of The Jack The Ripper Letters

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  • An Authorship Analysis Of The Jack The Ripper Letters

    Andrea Nini
    Linguistics and English Language, University of Manchester, UK

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  • #3
    The article is extremely interesting and well worth a read.

    The conclusion of the linguistic analysis is that of all the 209 letters in Letters from Hell, the two most alike are Dear Boss and Saucy Jack, strongly suggesting a common authorship.

    these results support the hypothesis that the ‘Dear Boss’ and ‘Saucy Jacky’ texts were not written independently from each other, since these two texts are more similar to each other in their use of word 2-grams than 95% of all the other possible pairs of texts in the JRC even though the texts received later could have been influenced by them
    i.e. even though the later letters could and did imitate the style of Dear Boss and Saucy Jack (because they were published), later letters are still less similar to them and each other than Dear Boss and Saucy Jack are to each other.

    The Moab and Midian letter is also very likely to be by the same person.

    there is linguistic evidence in support of the hypothesis that the ‘Moab and Midian’ letter has an authorship link with the other two pre-publication texts, even accounting for the fact that ‘Dear Boss’ and ‘Saucy Jacky’ were publicly available at the time ‘Midian’ was received

    This does not, of course, mean, that these letters were written by the Ripper himself.


    • #4
      I asked Andrea Nini his opinion on the 17th September letter, discovered in 1988.

      He was kind enough to give a preliminary assessment, naturally with the caveat that the letter does not present enough material to do a full analysis, and that he has not tried to do so.

      His answer is reproduced with his permission:
      I think that the linguistic evidence is incontrovertible that this letter and Dear Boss were not produced independently from each other, meaning that either there is an authorship link or the author of one was exposed to the other (it was plagiarised). However, the linguistic evidence as far as I can tell from a very rough analysis is not able to go too far beyond this conclusion with any degree of certainty.

      The question is: are the similarities due to plagiarism or to them being written by the same author? In between the two, considering the number and types of similarities, I would tend to go with the first hypothesis of plagiarism, consistent with the explanation that the letter is a hoax made later.

      However, all of this is rather speculative because (a) I haven’t done a proper analysis yet, and (b) more importantly, my initial assessment would indicate that the evidence is simply not enough to decide which of those two hypotheses is more likely, at least for the current state of the art of forensic linguistics. My main research is aimed at improving these techniques and perhaps one day we will be able to answer these questions as well, even with the small amount of evidence that we have here.

      I hope the answer is somewhat satisfactory and I hope that I will be able to do some more work on this letter in the future, perhaps with the help of some students.
      He also added the point that it seems odd for the letter to be signed Jack the Ripper, whe the supposedly same writer felt the need to state "Don't mind me giving the trade name" in a later letter.


      • #5
        Thanks for that, Kattrup
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        • #6
          Its a pity chappies like this wouldnt take a look at the diary.

          Would be nice to get a professional view of the language and so on rather than some amateur assessment.

          And before anyoen starts bellyaching about "One-offs" and so on ...Im not talking about that.

          IM saying thatthis chap could analyse the text for consistency of linguistics - the hypothesis being that a person from the early part of the twentieth century could be expected to produce a more linguistically consistent text than a person from the fag end of the twentieth century trying to write like someone from the 1880s.

          So if its linguistically consistent throughout its less likely that Mike Barrett was dictating the thing and pretending to be from 1880.