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Wordprint Studies On The Book Of Mormon


Joseph Antley

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How have critics responded to the stylometry study done at BYU that concluded the Book of Mormon selections they did not resemble any suggested 19th century authors, including Joseph Smith? (Larsen, Wayne A; Alvin C Rencher & Tim Layton (spring 1980), "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints", BYU Studies 20: 225â??51) I know the Tanners challenged it but then there was a second study done confirming the first one. (Hilton, John L (1997), in Noel B. Reynolds, "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship", Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins: 225-253). According to Wikipedia, that same study concluding the selections of Nephi and Alma had separate authors.

How is this explained away? Someone write it that they didn't compare it to? Was Rigdon or Spalding compared? Or was there yet another conspirator hidden away?

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There was a stylometric study done by David Holmes that came to a different conclusion: singular authorship (though it didn't seem to match JS's writing style).

The Hilton study was, if I recall correctly, criticized by John Tvedtnes because it relied on words that would not be present in a Hebrew original (like "the").

-CK

EDIT: Another weakness of the Hilton study is that it did not include Rigdon in the comparison.

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...According to Wikipedia, that same study concluding the selections of Nephi and Alma had

separate authors.

How is this explained away? Someone write it that they didn't compare it to? Was Rigdon or Spalding compared? Or was there yet another conspirator hidden away?

You write out a long narrative text for me -- say 100 pages about your dog or something.

I then throw away half of it, and I inject partial sentences of my own every now and then,

as well as adding in a few chapters from some old book.

Then, before I give it back to you, I have my secretary go through the results and add in

"wherefore," "lo and behold," therefore," "as it seemeth him good," and "it came to pass"

about ten to a page.

At that point, you retrieve your shaggy dog story and submit it (along with other of your writing

samples) to some BYU computer geeks -- asking them, "Did the same guy write all this?"

A few days later, the results come back --- yes all the misc. writings samples were penned

by the same author -- but he was not the writer of the dog's tale-- or so they tell you.

At that point you get ahold of the old Sunstone review of such word-print studies, and a

light goes off in your head ----- you take the fido fable back to the BYU geeks and you very

carefully request:

"Please compare all the writings I submitted previously, again --- but this time, please tell me

WHICH PARTS (be they ever so short) of the dog story DO match the other samples."

Uncle "Asking what author wrote the BoM is like asking which singer is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" Dale

.

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There was a stylometric study done by David Holmes that came to a different conclusion: singular authorship (though it didn't seem to match JS's writing style).

Holmes' methodology was never validated, and based on his own ideas. His article shows obvious bias within the text itself, and clearly shows his agenda.

Hilton's methodology was validated, and based on multiple contributors who were **not** LDS. Finally, it was based on a previous study and they attempted to correct the flaws on that study.

I find it unsurprising that you did not point this out.

The Hilton study was, if I recall correctly, criticized by John Tvedtnes because it relied on words that would not be present in a Hebrew original (like "the").

The exact citation, pleeze. "The" was not used in their study (which indicates you have not actually read the study), so your "summary" of Gee's comment may be suspect as well.

Also, their methodology was validated in translation, so, while Gee's comment may be interesting, it is only an observation and not proven to be a validated flaw.

-CK

EDIT: Another weakness of the Hilton study is that it did not include Rigdon in the comparison.

But it does show multiple authors.

FWIW, I personally find Holmes' methodology clearly deficient relative to Hilton. Holmes had an agenda, and his article reflected a predetermined conclusion.

I understand that he later admitted flaws in his study, but Dan Peterson may have more information on that.

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cdowis,

I find it unsurprising that you did not point this out.

Although I disagree with CK on many points of doctrine, you cannot pretend that he is normally dishonest.

The Hilton study was, if I recall correctly, criticized by John Tvedtnes because it relied on words that would not be present in a Hebrew original (like "the").

The exact citation, pleeze. "The" was not used in their study (which indicates you have not actually read the study), so your "summary" of Gee's comment may be suspect as well.

Careful. CK said like "the". That doesn't necessarily include the word "the", but "the" illustrates the type of words that were included that should not have been, words foreign to hebrew.

Also, He summarized John Tvedtnes' comments, not John Gee's. I am often guilty of being too hasty too.

I don't know much about stylometry other than a surface knowledge. But my first reaction is not to give it too much weight, since our critics believe that DNA has proven the BoM wrong. Science can work both ways. I'm on your side cdowis, but I hope we aren't jumping on CK simply because he disagrees with us.

Sargon

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1. Do we really need someone to give a commentary on the "hidden messages" and tone in my post?

2. I think CK will give an insightful response. Or he may simply ignore it. He knows that I respect his opinions, and does not need anyone to hold his hand.

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Hi cdowis,

My point in citing the Holmes study was to point out that authors using sophisticated statistical methodologies can arrive at dramatically different conclusions. I would be interested in any citations you can provide where non-LDS authors validated Hilton's methodology. Not that I doubt you; this is just a topic of some interest to me and I'd like to be as well-informed as possible.

I think you're wrong about the inclusion of "the". According to Hilton's Appendix 1,

"Useful word patterns are typically made up of key words such as common articles, conjunctions, and prepositions."

He then cites another study which appears to have served as a methodological model. The non-contextual words used by the author of that study included a, an, and, the, be, it, you, I, to, in, of, but, any, up, no, with, by, that, as, etc.

See pages 101 and 104 in the BYU Studies article.

I don't have a citation for Tvedtnes' comment (I picked it up second-hand from Mordecai), but it struck me as a sensible objection even if it is somewhat distorted in the telling.

Although I disagree with CK on many points of doctrine, you cannot pretend that he is normally dishonest.

I do appreciate the vote of confidence. I try to be as honest as possible, but I'm afraid the immortal words of Sir Peter Medawar may at times be applicable to all of us: "[The] author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself."

:P

-CK

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Here is a copy of the article.

http://davies-linguistics.byu.edu/ling485/.../30.3Hilton.pdf

You question regarding "non-LDS" scholars and validation studies will be found on pages 5 through 9 of the document (the pagination of the document itself). Note the composition of the Berkeley group, and the validation studies that they ran. Compare that with Holmes.

And you are correct about the use of the word "the". However, note the issue of translated document was addressed in the validation study. Specifically, while the words "the" and "and" may not be specifically used in a language, it is implied by the context and the translator will use those words to make the translation "English-like" rather than using the strict literal translation.

Hilton goes to great pains to place these non-contextual words within a specific context.

I would expect that GeeTvedtnes would know that, so that is why I would like to see his exact comment rather than some third hand thing that GeeTvedtnes may or may not have said in context.

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How have critics responded to the stylometry study done at BYU that concluded the Book of Mormon selections they did not resemble any suggested 19th century authors, including Joseph Smith? (Larsen, Wayne A; Alvin C Rencher & Tim Layton (spring 1980), "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints", BYU Studies 20: 225â??51) I know the Tanners challenged it but then there was a second study done confirming the first one. (Hilton, John L (1997), in Noel B. Reynolds, "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship", Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins: 225-253). According to Wikipedia, that same study concluding the selections of Nephi and Alma had separate authors.

How is this explained away? Someone write it that they didn't compare it to? Was Rigdon or Spalding compared? Or was there yet another conspirator hidden away?

I would think that it would be difficult to do wordprint studies on something such as The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon, if a fraud, would have been an attempt to imitate Biblical language translated in King James period English. To show wordprinting is a reliable statistical analysis to identify Joseph Smith as author I think you would have to find multiple examples that confirm the ability of the wordprints to identify authors who were attempting to imitate a style far removed in time and place from their own.

However, to use wordprints to test internal consistency, showing different or sole authorship within the text, I think would be reliable since wordprints have done that fairly effectively from what I understand. (But hey, I'm no expert).

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I would think that it would be difficult to do wordprint studies on something such as The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon, if a fraud, would have been an attempt to imitate Biblical language translated in King James period English. To show wordprinting is a reliable statistical analysis to identify Joseph Smith as author I think you would have to find multiple examples that confirm the ability of the wordprints to identify authors who were attempting to imitate a style far removed in time and place from their own.

However, to use wordprints to test internal consistency, showing different or sole authorship within the text, I think would be reliable since wordprints have done that fairly effectively from what I understand. (But hey, I'm no expert).

May I suggest that you read the article. I have given the link above.

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1. Do we really need someone to give a commentary on the "hidden messages" and tone in my post?

2. I think CK will give an insightful response. Or he may simply ignore it. He knows that I respect his opinions, and does not need anyone to hold his hand.

I'm sure CK was not bothered by your reply, and he of course does not need me to "hold his hand". I like you cdowis, and I hope you didn't take offense at my post. I hope that you recognize my motivations for commenting on your post though.

Sargon

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I would think that it would be difficult to do wordprint studies on something such as The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon, if a fraud, would have been an attempt to imitate Biblical language translated in King James period English. To show wordprinting is a reliable statistical analysis to identify Joseph Smith as author I think you would have to find multiple examples that confirm the ability of the wordprints to identify authors who were attempting to imitate a style far removed in time and place from their own.

However, to use wordprints to test internal consistency, showing different or sole authorship within the text, I think would be reliable since wordprints have done that fairly effectively from what I understand. (But hey, I'm no expert).

One type of word-print study counts and tabulates non-contextual words in a given writing sample.

Theoretically that method should be "blind" to attempted writing style changes by the author(s).

But, as I mentioned before here, the mixing of an editor's words into a pre-existing text, coupled

with the extensive over-use of non-contextual words, such as: and, it, to, that, etc., can so modify

the results as to make this particular word-print method essentially useless.

Prof. Craig Criddle of Stanford University (along with a team of computer staticians) has recently

completed a study of word patterns in the BoM, using three independent analysis methods.

The group has charted out the occurrences of phraseology/vocabulary patterns matching the known

writings of Sidney Rigdon, Solomon Spalding, Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith.

I am told that the three independent methods arrive at mutually agreeable patterns of occurrence,

far beyond the possibility of coincidence.

Whatever it is that they have thus located in the text, it should probably be looked at by other experts.

I anticipate a forthcoming discussion of this topic in the scholarly literature, after Criddle publishes.

UD

.

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You question regarding "non-LDS" scholars and validation studies will be found on pages 5 through 9 of the document (the pagination of the document itself). Note the composition of the Berkeley group, and the validation studies that they ran. Compare that with Holmes.

OK, so you're referring to the control studies run by the Berkeley group itself.

And you are correct about the use of the word "the". However, note the issue of translated document was addressed in the validation study.

The translation-control study was performed on "English translations of semi-classical texts written by different German authors. These academic translations were all carefully done by the same German-to-English translator." I don't speak German, by my mom informs me that German has a full complement of definite and indefinite articles-- unlike Hebrew.

Specifically, while the words "the" and "and" may not be specifically used in a language, it is implied by the context and the translator will use those words to make the translation "English-like" rather than using the strict literal translation.

You use the word "specifically," but as far as I recall that was not "specifically" suggested in the Hilton study. That may be your hypothesis, but I'm far from convinced.

Your mention of "strict literal translation" raises another issue: wordprints would only be valid in the case of what we might call a "tight" translation theory. They would not tell us anything under, for example, Blake Ostler's "modern expansion" theory. I don't think that a "tight" translation theory is really tenable, especially given the structuring of the Nephite narrative around frequently-anachronous adaptations of biblical texts.

Hilton goes to great pains to place these non-contextual words within a specific context.

Then they wouldn't be non-centextual anymore, would they? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I would expect that Gee would know that, so that is why I would like to see his exact comment rather than some third hand thing that Gee may or may not have said in context.

It was Tvedtnes. As I said, I don't have the exact comment. But I suspect Tedtnes would be aware that translations from Hebrew are very different than translations from German.

Perhaps further validation of the Hilton method is in order. Charlie, I choose you!

-CK

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I have to agree that a German English translation would not be a very good test of the methodology but it does point in the right direction.

While the validation of the methodology was not perfect, I think you will agree that the study was well thought out and constructed. We have researchers from multiple disciplines and religious persuasions (to avoid the "LDS bias"), who make a concentrated attempt to avoid the weaknesses of the previous studies, using multiple validation studies. This study cannot easily be dismissed.

No research, especially in the "soft sciences", is without some criticism.

It is part of the increasing tapestry of evidence for the BOM's authenticity. As more and more evidence is discovered over the years, the critics are left with little more than "no horses have been found".

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As more and more evidence is discovered over the years, the critics are left with little more than "no horses have been found".

or wheat, copper, brass, iron, cows, ox, steel, swine, elephants, not to mention cureloms. I think it's kind of unfair to characterize the opposition of your view as hanging on to a very slim thread.

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or wheat, copper, brass, iron, cows, ox, steel, swine, elephants, not to mention cureloms. I think it's kind of unfair to characterize the opposition of your view as hanging on to a very slim thread.

May I ask you a question. Do you accept the idea "Not found, not exist". Or do you recognize that this is a logical fallacy.

A logical fallacy is a very slim thread indeed.

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May I ask you a question. Do you accept the idea "Not found, not exist". Or do you recognize that this is a logical fallacy.

A logical fallacy is a very slim thread indeed.

We are not evaluating the logical bases of abstract arguments here, but talking about the way normal people make practical judgements on the basis of imperfect and incomplete information, which is usually all we have.

You come to my door and show me a book that says there were a lot of things such as "wheat, copper, brass, iron, cows, ox, steel, swine, elephants, not to mention cureloms" in America at a specific historical period.

I say "Found any of those things yet?"

You sat "No, but that doesn't prove they didn't exist. Maybe one day they will be found!"

I say "Uh-huh. Call me back then, OK? Meanwhile I have to mow the lawn"

And 99% of the normal people would say I was doing the sensible thing.

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Nobody ever comes to your door and says that. Somebody comes to your door and says here is a book about Jesus Christ. Pray about it and see if you receive a witness it is true."

When the person gets the witness, it doesn't matter what kind of animals have not been found yet. Yet.

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  • 1 month later...

How have critics responded to the stylometry study done at BYU that concluded the Book of Mormon selections they did not resemble any suggested 19th century authors, including Joseph Smith? (Larsen, Wayne A; Alvin C Rencher & Tim Layton (spring 1980), "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints", BYU Studies 20: 225â??51) I know the Tanners challenged it but then there was a second study done confirming the first one. (Hilton, John L (1997), in Noel B. Reynolds, "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship", Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins: 225-253). According to Wikipedia, that same study concluding the selections of Nephi and Alma had separate authors.

How is this explained away? Someone write it that they didn't compare it to? Was Rigdon or Spalding compared? Or was there yet another conspirator hidden away?

To Uncle Dale,

I'm sorry to resurrect an old thread, but if I recall Uncle Dale aren't you are proponet of the Spalding theory? If so it would seem this research might fit that theory well. Joseph Smith worked on Nephi last due to the loss of the 116 pages and since he seemed to believe that plotters would use the lost pages to show inconsistencies he didn't do that section using 'Lehi's' writings. Thus if Joseph did indeed have a manuscipt that he used, written by Spalding or someone else, the portion of the book that would be the most different would be Nephi since Joseph would have had to come up with his own material as to not match the 116 lost pages.

The problem of The Book of Mormon not matching Joseph's, Oliver's or Spalding's writings I think can be somewhat dismissed on the fact that there really isn't enough empirical examples of writers imitating much older writing styles(especially one where they would almost certainly be borrowing words from a book of reference such as the KJV would have been in this case) to definitively demonstrate the stylometry is reliable in indentifying authors in such a case. However if internal consistency can be shown by stylometry then it would seem that Nephi not matching Alma would make an interesting case for the Spalding theory.

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As I recall, Hilton ultimately recognized some weaknesses in the original 1980 study, and the parameters were upgraded for a later Berkeley study, wherein Hilton, et al also addressed Holmes' objections. The later study also confirmed multiple-authorship. Holmes is cited as having recognized the flaws in his own methodology, and of having adopted the later Berkeley criteria.

See BYU Studies 30/3 (1990): 89-108

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To Uncle Dale,

I'm sorry to resurrect an old thread, but if I recall Uncle Dale aren't you are proponet of the

Spalding theory?

It has been a long and slow personal evolution. I began merely by posing the question of whether

or not the "theory" was worth researching. I moved from that starting point to conducting my own

research and concluding that there were early claims for a Spalding BoM authorship, before the

"theory" was ever articulated. At that time (1981) I concluded that Spalding may have indeed somehow

contributed to the BoM text. In other words, I believed it possible, but not probable.

Since then, I have progressed to thinking it probable, but not proveable.

Now, I am thinking that perhaps enough evidence can be assembled, to at least convince non-LDS

that the "theory" is a valid one.

If so it would seem this research might fit that theory well. Joseph Smith worked on Nephi last due

to the loss of the 116 pages and since he seemed to believe that plotters would use the lost pages to

show inconsistencies he didn't do that section using 'Lehi's' writings. Thus if Joseph did indeed have

a manuscipt that he used, written by Spalding or someone else, the portion of the book that would be

the most different would be Nephi since Joseph would have had to come up with his own material as to

not match the 116 lost pages.

I have thought through a number of different possibilities. The one that seems to make the most

sense to me, is that JS could have been dictating directly from a prepared manuscript, or paraphrasing

such a manuscipt, in short segments, from memory. I also postulate that such a prepared manuscript

would have been largely in the handwriting of Rigdon, Cowdery and perhaps Smith himself -- and that

this source had to be destroyed, perhaps page-by-page, as it was dictated.

If that were the case -- that a prepared text had been dictated and then partly destroyed, the loss

of the "Book of Lehi" would have been a great problem. That part of the Nephite history had to be

re-dictated, in at least a narrative that resembled the lost one, enough that Martin Harris would not

have objected (that the new text was totally unlike the one he had lost).

It took quite a while before the replacement for the "Book of Lehi" was dictated. I postulate that

during the interval Smith continued dictating Mosiah, etc., down to Moroni -- and that Moroni,

1 & 2 Nephi and Jacob were the final additions to the book. I also postulate that the replacement

text depended only a little upon some retained Spalding writings, and greatly upon the insertions of

Sidney Rigdon, accompanied by a lesser contribution from Oliver Cowdery and editorial work by JS.

The problem of The Book of Mormon not matching Joseph's, Oliver's or Spalding's writings I think can

be somewhat dismissed on the fact that there really isn't enough empirical examples of writers

imitating much older writing styles(especially one where they would almost certainly be borrowing

words from a book of reference such as the KJV would have been in this case) to definitively demonstrate

the stylometry is reliable in indentifying authors in such a case. However if internal consistency can

be shown by stylometry then it would seem that Nephi not matching Alma would make an interesting case

for the Spalding theory.

My hopes are to see the "word-printing" broken down to a chapter-by-chapter tabulation of "matches"

and "non-matches" with Spalding, Rigdon, Cowdery and Smith. If possible, I'd like to see it done on a

page-by-page basis, but the textual segments of that short length are hard to "wordprint."

If it is a heavily redacted text, throughout -- then it will be hard to separate out individual writers. But,

if some segments of the text are pretty one "one voice," (like part of Alma) the task will be less daunting.

I expect to see some appearance of reports on this sort of thing, in the scholarly literature, next year.

UD

.

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Holmes' methodology was never validated, and based on his own ideas. His article shows obvious bias within the text itself, and clearly shows his agenda.

You made this claim before but you've never backed it up.

Holmes specifically used Hapax Legomena/Dislegomena which has been a tool used for literary identification for quite a while. See G.U. Yule, The Statistical Study of Literary Vocabulary, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1944. The methodology is still actively used. See Homeland Security: Applying Authorship Analysis to Extremist-Group Web Forum Messages.

What is your basis for the claim "he offered nothing to validate his methodology"? It's not methodology based on his own ideas as you claim. It's a methodology used 60 years ago and still presently used for authorship attribution.

Holmes is an often published & cited expert on literary style analysis and stylometry. For example the Magazine of the American Statistical Association, Chance, recently published Holmes' article Who was the author? An introduction to stylometry, Chance, Holmes, D.I., and J. Kardos. 2003. Apparently the ASA considers him enough of an expert to write and intro to stylometry. For those who don't know stylometry is the study of linguistic style to attribute authorship.

For those interested in reading more on the subject you can read another recent article by Holmes in the Oxford Journal Literary and Linguistic Computing, Attributing Authorship: An Introduction Lit Linguist Computing, Nov 2004; 19: 528 - 530.

Holmes had an agenda, and his article reflected a predetermined conclusion.

I've yet to see you provided an example of his agenda or predetermined conclusions. From what I can see he is a secular academic not a anti-mormon preaching against the church. By contrast, I do suspect that prior to approaching the subject Hilton was a believer. If one of the two likely had a predetermined opinion on the subject prior to research my money would be on Hilton not Holmes.

Phaedrus

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You made this claim before but you've never backed it up.

Holmes specifically used Hapax Legomena/Dislegomena which has been a tool used for literary identification for quite a while. See G.U. Yule, The Statistical Study of Literary Vocabulary, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1944. The methodology is still actively used. See Homeland Security: Applying Authorship Analysis to Extremist-Group Web Forum Messages.

What is your basis for the claim "he offered nothing to validate his methodology"? It's not methodology based on his own ideas as you claim. It's a methodology used 60 years ago and still presently used for authorship attribution.

Holmes is an often published & cited expert on literary style analysis and stylometry. For example the Magazine of the American Statistical Association, Chance, recently published Holmes' article Who was the author? An introduction to stylometry, Chance, Holmes, D.I., and J. Kardos. 2003. Apparently the ASA considers him enough of an expert to write and intro to stylometry. For those who don't know stylometry is the study of linguistic style to attribute authorship.

For those interested in reading more on the subject you can read another recent article by Holmes in the Oxford Journal Literary and Linguistic Computing, Attributing Authorship: An Introduction Lit Linguist Computing, Nov 2004; 19: 528 - 530.

I've yet to see you provided an example of his agenda or predetermined conclusions. From what I can see he is a secular academic not a anti-mormon preaching against the church. By contrast, I do suspect that prior to approaching the subject Hilton was a believer. If one of the two likely had a predetermined opinion on the subject prior to research my money would be on Hilton not Holmes.

Phaedrus

I did not discuss his qualifications. I commented on his methodology.

I note in your long post I see no reference to validation studies of the methodology, only the comment that it iis "still being used". I do not need to point out that "being used" is not validation, especially in a soft science.

However, Home's methodology is discussed in detail in the article found

Here

Concerning his bias as evident in his article, if you can give us a link to his article, I will be happy to point out specific comments he made regarding Joseph Smith and the BOM. I do not have the manuscript in front of me. I remember reading his article and found his comments interesting, considering the context of a scientific article. He made his bias very clear.

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I did not discuss his qualifications. I commented on his methodology.

I note in your long post I see no reference to validation studies of the methodology, only the comment that it iis "still being used". I do not need to point out that "being used" is not validation, especially in a soft science.

No reference to validation studies of his methodologies? I cited that the methodology was originally used in one of the foundation texts of the academic discipline. I then provided evidence that the methodology is still being used in public academic papers. Not only that, Holmes' work and methodology was peer reviewed and published in the leading academic journals of his field.

For a recent commentary on the use of Hapax Legomena/Dislegomena as a methodology see Function Words in Authorship Attribution Studies, Garcia & Martin, Literary and Linguistic Computing Volume 22, Number 1 Pp. 49-66 2006. It specifically says that Hapax Legomena/Dislegomena are "generally accepted by scholars as reliable measures of lexical repetition and lexical richness".

However, Home's methodology is discussed in detail in the article found

Here

Yes I've read it many times. It's a good discussion of the issues.

Concerning his bias as evident in his article, if you can give us a link to his article, I will be happy to point out specific comments he made regarding Joseph Smith and the BOM. I do not have the manuscript in front of me. I remember reading his article and found his comments interesting, considering the context of a scientific article. He made his bias very clear.

Give you a link to the article? You're the one making declarations of agenda and bias. I would assume you'd know how to find it. Assuming you've read them. Have you read them?

Phaedrus

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