FILE - In this April 25, 2006, file photo, Robert Leonard, a Hofstra University college professor teaching forensic linguistics, lectures to students at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Language detectives say the key clues to who wrote the anonymous New York Times opinion piece slamming President Donald Trump may not be the odd and glimmering “lodestar,” but the itty-bitty words that people usually read right over: “I,” ”of,” and “but.” Leonard says if experts could get the right number of writing samples from officials whose identities are known, “an analysis could certainly be done.” (AP Photo/Ed Betz, File)

Word detectives: Close look at word choice could ID writer

September 06, 2018 - 10:50 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Language detectives say the key clues into who wrote the anonymous New York Times opinion piece may not be the odd and glimmering "lodestar," but the itty-bitty words that you usually read right over: "I," ''of," and "but."

And lodestar? That could be red herring meant to throw sleuths off track, some experts say.

Experts use a combination of language use, statistics and computer science to help figure out who wrote documents. They've even solved crimes and historical mysteries that way.

The field, which some call "forensic linguistics," is suddenly at center stage after an unidentified "senior administration official" wrote in the Times that he or she was part of a "resistance" movement working from within the administration to curb Trump's most dangerous impulses.