Using digital humanities and linguistics to help with terrorism investigations

Forensic Sci Int. 2021 Jan:318:110564. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2020.110564. Epub 2020 Nov 6.


This article seeks to offer a response to the digital transformation of forensic science by employing a tool-based linguistic analysis, integrated into the paradigm of digital humanities. It is a way to scientifically model the analysis of digital texts using digital methods. Computer science comes in support of linguistic skills in order to deal with investigative situations and help analyze criminal acts. It presents a case report thanks to the analysis of a corpus made up of 23 texts relating to criminal acts related to suspected terrorist groups with links to the far left. The goal is to help investigators by providing results which can help find stylistic similarities or exclusions between texts and thus potentially between the authors of those texts, offering authors profiling hypothsesis that may be included in the investigation process. While linguistics alone cannot solve such cases, a better understanding of language data, including topics, style and grammar, bring additional clues that can be very useful information in the investigation of crimes (linguists can "translate" information to investigators, so that it can be integrated to the investigation). Digital tools provide a form of objectification since they are based on statistical calculations which reveal regularities that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. These tools, when used properly in investigations, can prove invaluable in extracting "clues" from the linguistic "traces" that make up texts.

Keywords: Corpus; Forensic linguistics; Linguistics; Stylometry; Textometry.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Forensic Sciences / methods*
  • Humanities*
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Terrorism*