Carole Chaski

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Carole Chaski
Born1955 (age 63–64)
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisSyntactic theories and models of syntactic change : a study of Greek infinitival complementation (1988)
Academic work
Sub-disciplineForensic linguistics
InstitutionsNorth Carolina State University

Carole Elisabeth Chaski (born 1955) is a forensic linguist and is considered one of the leading experts in the field.[1] Her research has led to improvements in the methodology and reliability of stylometric analysis and inspired further research on the use of this approach for authorship identification.[2] Her contributions have served as expert testimony in several Federal and State Court cases in the United States and Canada [3] She is also the president of ALIAS Technology and executive director of the Institute for Linguistic Evidence, a non-profit research organization devoted to linguistic evidence.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Carole Chaski was born in 1955, one of six children of Milton S. Chaski, Sr., and Marylee (née Evans) Chaski.[5][6][7] Chaski attended Severn School and graduated in 1973.[8] She earned awards for both English and Spanish proficiency that year.[8]

Chaski earned her A.B. magna cum laude in English and Ancient Greek from Bryn Mawr College in 1975, M.Ed. in Psychology of Reading from the University of Delaware in 1981. Her 1988 Ph.D. dissertation in Linguistics at Brown University was titled Syntactic theories and models of syntactic change : a study of Greek infinitival complementation.[9]


While teaching linguistics at North Carolina State University (1990–1994), Carole Chaski was asked by police to examine several versions of an alleged suicide note found on a home computer. Using syntactic and statistical analysis, she concluded that the decedent was not the author of the texts, and that a roommate likely was. The roommate later confessed.[1][10][11] Chaski subsequently left teaching to work full-time as a forensic linguist.[1]

Since then Forensic Magazine has called Chaski "the leading expert in the field of forensic linguistics".[12] According to John Olsson and June Luchjenbroers, "Dr. Carole Chaski has pioneered the syntactic analysis of authorship.".[13]

In the undergraduate textbook Forensic Linguistics: Second Edition: An Introduction To Language, Crime and the Law, John Olsson wrote, "The first linguist to consider markedness in terms of authorship systematically was Carole Chaski, whose statistical analysis of syntax in authorship has met the Daubert challenge in the US court system."[14] Chaski's methodology, according to Olsson, includes software that uses four grammar rules to identify a text's syntactic markedness, in combination with measurements of the ways punctuation is used by a writer. Olsson continued, "Chaski should be credited with having brought forensic authorship comparison (as opposed to long text authorship 'attribution') into the scientific arena, and out of the darkness of literary criticism, canonical literary corpus construction and discourse analysis modes of authorship identification."[14]

One of her resulting contributions was her research on the reliability of the different variables that forensic linguists were using as discriminants amongst unknown authors.[15] Her findings led her to conclude that many of the frequently used variables – such as the amount of spelling errors or prescriptive grammar errors – were not valid ways of determining authors or discriminating between them. Chaski's complaint centered on the basis that many of these variables were reflective of dialects and not idiolects.[15] Tim Grant and Kevin Baker have criticized Chaski's evaluation of the authorship markers. The two have addressed issues with the reliability and validity of her methods for evaluating each marker. They also draw attention to Chaski's selection of authors, namely because they lack sociolinguistic diversity.[16]

Moreover, according to Lawrence Solan, former president of the International Association of Forensic Linguists, there is a cultural and intellectual divide in the profession, with Chaski advocating "scientific methodology that is replicable from case to case", and others, like James R. Fitzgerald, using "an 'intuitive' approach, examining among other things idiosyncrasies in spelling and word choice to see whether 'constellations of features emerge' ".[17] After explaining Fitzgerald's type of analysis, calling it "forensic stylistics", Michelle Taylor of Forensic Magazine followed with a description of Chaski's type of analysis: "That form of language analysis, sometimes called forensic stylistics, is different from what Chaski does, as she has a formal education in linguistics and uses a computational linguistics method she developed called ALIAS, or Automated Linguistics Identification and Assessment System."[12]

Ben Zimmer of The New York Times wrote that Chaski was also working on the problem of "identifying the authorship of a document that was produced by a computer to which multiple users had access" by developing software that could categorize the linguistic structures which tend to be stable across different styles of writing.[18] In 2012 Jack Hitt of The New Yorker noted Chaski's work on a computer algorithm to identify syntactic patterns, citing Chaski's goal, "to develop a standard 'validated tool' that police, civil investigators, and linguists can turn to when testifying in crucial cases, such as a capital murder trial".[19] Chaski's method also uses a database of linguistic samples.[11]

Chaski currently serves on the editorial board of Brief Chronicles, a peer reviewed journal of Shakespearean authorship studies.[20]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Who Wrote It? Steps Toward a Science of Author Identification. National Institute of Justice Journal, vol. 233, pp. 15–22 (1997).
  • "Junk Science, Pre-Science and Developing Science" National Conference on Science and the Law Proceedings, 97-147 (1999).
  • "Empirical Evaluations of Language-Based Author Identification Techniques" International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, 8:1 (2001).
A study on the reliability and validity of certain techniques used in forensic stylistics. Chaski was inspired to conduct the study because of the Court-decision made in United States v. Van Wyk.
  • "Who’s At The Keyboard? Recent Results in Authorship Attribution," International Journal of Digital Evidence 4:1 (Spring 2005), 1-13 (2005).
  • "The Keyboard Dilemma and Authorship Attribution," International Federation for Information Processing Volume 242, 133-146 (2007).
A study prescribing a method for authorship attribution in the case of documents that are sourced from computers which have multiple users.

Chapters in textbooks[edit]

  • "Author Identification in the Forensic Setting," Oxford Handbook of Language and Law. (March 2012)[21]
  • "Forensic Linguistics, Authorship, Attribution, and Admissibility", in Forensic Science and Law: Investigative Applications in Criminal, Civil, and Family Justice (2005)[22]


  1. ^ a b c Dahl, Dick (7 April 2008). "Forensic linguists becoming more important part of criminal investigations". Lawyers USA. Archived from the original on 2017-09-27. Retrieved 26 September 2017 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).
  2. ^ Solan, Lawrence; Peter Meijes Tiersma (2005). Speaking of crime: the language of criminal justice. The Chicago series in law and society. U of Chicago P. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-226-76792-5. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  3. ^ "Carole E. Chaski, PhD". Columbia College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  4. ^ Lemos, Robert (20 October 2006). "Researcher attempts to shed light on security troll". SecurityFocus. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  5. ^ "Obituary for Milton Chaski , Sr - Lewes, DE". March 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  6. ^ "Milton S. Chaski Sr". The Daily Times. 2011-03-04. p. 4. Retrieved 2017-09-26 – via
  7. ^ "Marylee Evans Chaski". The News Journal. 2005-07-06. p. 16. Retrieved 2017-09-26 – via
  8. ^ a b "Severn Graduation Hears General". The Capital. 1973-05-31. p. 10. Retrieved 2017-09-26 – via
  9. ^ "Theses & Dissertations". Brown University Library. Chaski, Carole Elisabeth (Ph.D.: Linguistics, 1988). Title: Syntactic theories and models of syntactic change : a study of Greek infinitival complementation. Advisor: Francis, Winthrop N. Concentration: Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences
  10. ^ Wilmington Morning Star, Tuesday, September 29, 1992, 6B
  11. ^ a b Murray, Molly (2002-11-16). "Linguist: Chaski Developed a Computer Program to Analyze Writing". The News Journal. p. 2. Retrieved 2017-09-26 – via
  12. ^ a b "Solving Crime One Word at a Time". Forensic Magazine. August 24, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  13. ^ John Olsson; June Luchjenbroers (5 December 2013). Forensic Linguistics. A&C Black. pp. 321–. ISBN 978-1-4725-6957-8.
  14. ^ a b John Olsson (2008). Forensic Linguistics: Second Edition: An Introduction To Language, Crime and the Law. A&C Black. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-0-8264-9308-8.
  15. ^ a b Chaski, Carole (September 1997). "Who wrote it? steps towards a science of authorship identification". National Institute of Justice Journal: 15–22.
  16. ^ Grant, Tim (2001). "Identifying reliable, valid markers of authorship: a response to Chaski". International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law. 8: 66–79.
  17. ^ Sellers, Frances Stead (February 27, 2015). "Forensic linguistics: Do your e-mails, texts and tweets reveal clues to your identity?". Washington Post. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  18. ^ Zimmer, Ben (July 23, 2011). "Opinion— Decoding Your E-Mail Personality". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  19. ^ Hitt, Jack (July 16, 2012). "Words on Trial". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  20. ^ Stritmatter, Roger, ed. (2016). "Brief Chronicles: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Authorship Studies" (PDF). Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  21. ^ Chaski, Carole (2012). Author Identification in the Forensic Setting. The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199572120.001.0001. ISBN 9780199572120.
  22. ^ Chaski, Carole (22 December 2005). Wecht, Cyril H.; Rago, John T., eds. Forensic Science and Law: Investigative Applications in Criminal, Civil and Family Justice. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4200-5811-6.

External links[edit]