Postdoc uncovering the hidden meanings in religious texts

Thursday, 25 May 2017


After completing his first degree in India in computer science, then a PhD in computational stylometry in Malaysia, Ahmad Alqurneh now comes to the University of Newcastle to further his postdoctoral studies in stylometry, the statistical analysis of variations in literary style of texts.

Postdoctoral research into religious texts

Originally from Jordan, Ahmad has recently commenced with the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing and is now focused on a project related to translations using stylometry.

Ahmad explains the importance of stylometry in investigating sacred religious texts, for example the Qur’an.

“As the Qur’an is a single book written in Arabic, it has many translations in different languages. One of the main translations is in the English language. However, many English translations by different translators in different times were written. Our focus is on the content creation of the translations using stylometry,” Ahmad said.

“Traditionally stylometry is used to ascertain authorship attribution and disprove fake fabrication by authors. I’m going down another path here with single text and single authors, using stylometry to extract hidden knowledge in the text in order for the reader to truly appreciate the efforts of the writer and their unique writing style.”

“It’s possible that by using stylometry to analyse holy books like the Qur’an, that readers will gain a better understanding of the meanings of the text and avoid it being taken out of context. Some people read the text and have the wrong understanding and which might lead to negative results, as can be the case with the extremist perspective. I hope this research will bring more common understanding between the people reading the text when they realise this kind of knowledge,” Ahmad said.

Director of the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing and the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Professor Hugh Craig, said that Ahmad’s research is part of a trend to use stylometry for new in-depth analysis of texts rather than to determine authorship.

“I’m excited to see what Ahmad uncovers through his work. Stylometry can give us fresh insight into works that have been studied for centuries.  Ahmad’s project on the variation in translations of the Qur’an will give us new clues into how people understood the text from various perspectives at various times,” Professor Craig said.