Original Research

Stylometry and characterisation in The Big Bang Theory

Maryka van Zyl, Yolande Botha
Literator | Vol 37, No 2 | a1282 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i2.1282 | © 2016 Maryka van Zyl, Yolande Botha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 February 2016 | Published: 22 November 2016

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Maryka van Zyl, School of Languages, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Yolande Botha, School of Languages, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

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Dialogue is an important aspect of televisual character construction. Writers make linguistic choices on behalf of characters, and these choices can cause viewers to associate a character with a specific stereotype, subculture or social group. This study examines the linguistic construction of the character Sheldon Cooper in the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. A cluster analysis tree of the speech of each of the five main characters in the first seven seasons (generated by the R script Stylo 0.6.0) indicated that the character of Sheldon Cooper differs from the other main characters (Leonard, Penny, Howard and Rajesh) with respect to linguistic style. These differences were further explored using corpus analysis software (WordSmith 6.0) to identify keywords and lexical bundles and to compare the use of active versus passive voice constructions. Sheldon’s choice of scientific or more formal words and his relative preference for the passive voice typify his linguistic style as expository rather than colloquial.


Stylometry; discourse; characterisation; ideolect


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