Dr Alexis Antonia

Conjoint Fellow

School of Humanities and Social Science

Career Summary


Before the Beyond!  
Alexis Antonia has been assisting Computational Statistics Pioneering since 1985 and research at the Centre for Literary & Linguistic Computing since 1989.

I borrowed the phrase ‘Before the Beyond’ from Emeritus Professor John Burrows’ recent presentation at the ‘Beyond Authorship 2014 Symposium’, which was entitled “Before the Beyond: Authorship as a Point of Departure”. In a field which seems to be moving ahead at break-neck speed, it is gratifying to know that one has been there almost since the beginning.

It was during the years I worked as a research assistant under the tutelage of Burrows, that I gained expertise in the methods of computational stylistics. Burrows’ pioneering research began during a study leave in Cambridge in 1984 and continued after his retirement from the English Department in 1989 when the CLLC was established to allow him to continue developing his methods.  After Burrows’ retirement, I continued to do research assistance for the current Director of the CLLC, Professor Hugh Craig.

As a research assistant I worked on many and varied research projects for the Centre’s members and collaborators. Professor Wayne McKenna’s projects resulted in the publication of three articles on James Joyce (experimental method in computational stylistics) and two articles on Samuel Beckett (translation theory). When Dr Ellen Jordan approached the CLLC for help in resolving an attribution problem in Victorian periodical literature, I was assigned to assist her since she was totally unfamiliar with the techniques of computational stylistics. The Jordan collaboration led to publications in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014. Other distant collaborations on questions of newspaper articles attributions resulted in publications in History Australia in 2009 and forthcoming.

The introduction to the Victorian periodicals opened up the possibility of undertaking independent research in this area, using the techniques I had learned over so many years. My doctoral thesis was awarded the ‘2010 Faculty Award for Research Higher Degree Excellence’. The Victorian periodical text collection (200 articles, written by 22 authors totalling almost 2 million words) used for the tests in the thesis has been a valuable resource for current work and is gradually being expanded. A number of articles have been written, using this corpus, with two accepted for publication and one currently submitted. It would appear that the research habit is one that is not easily discarded!

Research Expertise
By bringing together the techniques of computational stylistics and the periodicals, Antonia has made “an important and original contribution to knowledge of Victorian periodicals, authorship and the literary profession in the Victorian period, and the relationship between style, intellectual discourse, and conditions of cultural production in nineteenth-century Britain” (Dolin, PhD examiner’s comments). Antonia also advanced the work in statistical stylistics by carrying out the first study which developed and analysed a large, integrated and intentionally anonymous corpus of periodical writing from the period. This corpus is now available for corpus based studies and was used to produce a publication which investigated the effectiveness of attribution methodologies using n-grams with 'n' larger than one. Four published articles from this work have made important contributions to long-standing questions of attribution in the field: for example, in 2008 a paper was published on an attribution question which has intrigued people since the 1850s. The infamous weekly journal The Saturday Review (often dubbed ‘The Reviler’) published a series of articles between 1855 and 1858 ridiculing the emerging Women’s Movement. For 150 years people have speculated about the authorship of the articles, while the articles themselves have continued to arouse the interest of scholars, with most accounts of the English Women’s Movement quoting from them. The highly probable attribution of several of the articles to Lord Robert Cecil, Third Marquess of Salisbury and later Prime Minister of England was an important achievement. An article in 2011 demonstrated that the internal evidence of computational stylistics is, in certain cases, a more valid test of authorship, than some of the content related methods used by the Wellesley Index. An article currently being considered for publication attempts to shed light on the question of the influence of a journal's 'home style' on its periodical articles. Stylistics and textual analysis have been used to investigate the styles of a number of Australian goldfield journalists whose unsigned articles appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald in the mid nineteenth century.

Teaching Expertise
Teaching Expertise Statement Antonia began teaching at Sydney University while completing her Masters Degree in Early English and Literature. In Newcastle, she completed a BA Hons degree specialising in Linguistics and has at various times undertaken some teaching in the Department in the fields of Linguistic Concepts, Sociolinguistics, Child Acquisition of Language and Phonetics and Phonology. Expertise in the methods of computational stylistics gained from working alongside Emeritus Professor John Burrows has enabled Antonia to teach these methods to others wanting to work in the field. 

Since my doctoral dissertation involved the application of computational stylistic methods to the Victorian periodicals, my primary research collaboration is with people who are working in this area, such as Dr Ellen Jordan. However, as a research associate of the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing, I am open to collaboration in any research project which utilises the methods of computational stylistics.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Newcastle


  • Australian goldfields journalism
  • Victorian periodicals
  • authorial attribution
  • computational stylistics
  • linguistics

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
200402 Computational Linguistics 20
200503 British and Irish Literature 20
200526 Stylistics and Textual Analysis 60


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
1999 McKenna CW, Burrows JF, Antonia A, 'Beckett's "Molloy": computational stylistics and the meaning of translation', Variete: Perspectives in French Literature, Society and Culture, Peter Lang, Frankfurt 79-91 (1999) [B1]

Journal article (4 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Antonia A, Craig H, Elliott J, 'Language chunking, data sparseness, and the value of a long marker list: Explorations with word n-grams and authorial attribution', Literary and Linguistic Computing, 29 147-163 (2014) [C1]

The frequencies of individual words have been the mainstay of computer-assisted authorial attribution over the past three decades. The usefulness of this sort of data is attested ... [more]

The frequencies of individual words have been the mainstay of computer-assisted authorial attribution over the past three decades. The usefulness of this sort of data is attested in many benchmark trials and in numerous studies of particular authorship problems. It is sometimes argued, however, that since language as spoken or written falls into word sequences, on the 'idiom principle', and since language is characteristically produced in the brain in chunks, not in individual words, n-grams with n higher than 1 are superior to individual words as a source of authorship markers. In this article, we test the usefulness of word n-grams for authorship attribution by asking how many good-quality authorship markers are yielded by n-grams of various types, namely 1-grams, 2-grams, 3-grams, 4-grams, and 5-grams. We use two ways of formulating the n-grams, two corpora of texts, and two methods for finding and assessing markers. We find that when using methods based on regularly occurring markers, and drawing on all the available vocabulary, 1-grams perform best. With methods based on rare markers, and all the available vocabulary, strict 3-gram sequences perform best. If we restrict ourselves to a defined word-list of function-words to form n-grams, 2-grams offer a striking improvement on 1-grams. © The Author 2013.Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of ALLC. All rights reserved.

DOI 10.1093/llc/fqt028
Citations Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Hugh Craig
2014 Crabb P, Antonia A, Craig H, 'Who wrote ¿A Visit to the Western Goldfields¿? Using computers to analyse language in historical research', History Australia, 11 177-193 (2014) [C1]
Co-authors Hugh Craig
2011 Antonia A, Jordan EE, 'Checking some Wellesley Index attributions by empirical 'internal evidence' : The case of Blackie and Burton', Authorship, 1 1-23 (2011) [C1]
2006 Jordan EE, Craig DH, Antonia A, 'The Bronte Sisters and the Christian Remembrancer: A Pilot Study in the Use of the 'Burrows Method' to Identify the Authorship of Unsigned Articles in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press', Victorian Periodicals Review, 39 21-45 (2006) [C1]
DOI 10.1353/vpr.2006.0024
Co-authors Hugh Craig
Show 1 more journal article

Conference (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Antonia A, 'Authorship, genre and gender: Competing influences in Victorian periodicals', Combined Abstracts. Language Individuation: A Symposium in honour of John Burrows, Newcastle, NSW (2011) [E3]

Dr Alexis Antonia


Conjoint Fellow
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Casual Research Assistant
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email alexis.antonia@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 5769
Fax (02) 4921 6933


Room MC101
Building McMullin Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308