Jared Diamond is being sued for defamation for $10 million, as I mentioned earlier, and now the plaintiffs have upped the ante by bringing in a professor of linguistics who, by the use of corpus linguistics, maintains that Diamond's quotations of Daniel Wemp, on which the story on revenge warfare is based, are highly unlikely to have been uttered in speech, but much more likely to originate from written english. Breathe.
The original story by Diamond is no longer freely accessible at The New Yorker; one now has to be a subscriber, which I'm not. If you are in possession of the full article, please let me know.
Here's the the report by the linguist, Douglas Biber.
Here's an article on StinkyJournalism.org also by Biber, in which he explains corpus linguistics and touches upon Diamond's quotes.
Here's an example from Biber's report of a quote atributed to Wemp:
“ ‘Soll did have a son, but he was only six years old at the time of his father’s death, much too young to organize the revenge,’ Daniel said. ‘On the other hand, my father was felt to be too old and weak by then; the avenger should be a strong young man in his prime. So I was the one who became expected to avenge Soll.’ ”
My comments: First, this particular quote doesn't seem so unlike to have been spoken. That doesn't make up for formal analysis, but I'm just saying... not convincing. Then, because I have not read the original article, I do not know if Daniel Wemp and Jared Diamond conversed in English. If they did, did Diamond say that these are the exact quotes? If not, Biber's argument falls apart. It is easily imagined (but I don't know) that Diamond edited the spoken words for the article to improve readability. On the other hand, it is well known that Diamond speaks 12 languages, and among those Fore - a New Guinea language that could have been the language they spoke together. I don't know. None of this is addressed in Biber's article.
It's going to be interesting if this corpus linguistic analysis will be refuted, and if not if it's even admissible in court, given that the case doesn't get thrown out long before that would take place (as it should be).
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