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Ready for text analysis?

Forensics researchers mining through SMS texts to test their skill at identifying individuals through their messages.
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Written by ZDNet Editors, Contributors on

The next step in data mining? How about text mining? British researchers are analyzing volunteers' SMS messages to see if they can define patterns well enough to identify someone from their text.

The BBC reports: Analysis of texts were a big part of the conviction in the abduction and murder trial of Stuart Campbell. He was accused of killing young Danielle Jones in 2002.

As part of his alibi, the defense showed two text messages purportedly sent by Danielle after she disappeared. Analysis by a forensic linguist highlighted differences in the spelling of words before and after Danielle's disappearance. The prosecution said the later messages were sent by Mr Campbell after he had abducted Danielle, using her phone.

The new study hopes to develop the science of forensic text analsyis.

"As texting is both a relatively new mode of communication and a particularly informal way of using language, there is not a strong expectation that texters will follow linguistic conventions," said Dr Tim Grant, one of the team behind the study.

"This freedom therefore allows for significant individual differences in text messaging style, and this can be used to identify the text's authors."

Generally, Grant said, people tend to leave out whole words from their messages, and its the patterns of word omission that are promsing. "The different parts of speech that people leave out seem to be fairly consistent, but the purpose of the study is to find out if that is actually true," said Dr Grant.

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