The calculation of intertextual distance proposed in 2001 by Dominique and Cyril Labbé, according to its authors, can not only measure the similarity between texts, but when the value of the index obtained attains certain levels, can establish the paternity of the texts studied. It is by this method that it can supposedly be demonstrated that Pierre Corneille is the author of most of Moliere’s comedies. This index, founded solely on lexical data, and empirically calibrated based on a corpus composed of only a limited number of 17th century texts, has been the object of reservations and criticisms focusing on:
- the trustworthiness of the method (see for example a text by Jean-Marie Viprey)
- the validity of the approach (Étienne Brunet, “Où l’on mesure la distance entre les distances”) ; the same author reexamines a point of method in “Muller le lexicomaître”)
- the surprising conclusions to which it can lead (Charles Bernet, “La ‘distance intertextuelle’ et le théâtre du Grand Siècle”); english version here
Other quantitative studies on metrics (Valérie Beaudouin et François Yvon, “Contribution de la métrique à la stylométrie”), on riming words (Charles Bernet, “Hasards de la rime”) or on the distribution of textual characters (Stephan Vonfelt, “Le graphonaute ou Molière retrouvé”) underline the manifest differences between the two authors.
The reader interested in knowing a bit more about the pathetic impasse reached by D. Labbé, become one of the most fervent disciples of Pierre Louÿs, can consult the page, Histoire d’une impasse. There he or she will find links towards the main studies that invalidate the analyses and conclusions of D. Labbé, in particular the recent article by Charles Bernet, mentioned above (“La ‘distance intertextuelle’ et le théâtre du Grand Siècle”), whose principal conclusion is incontestable: The experiments documented in this study invalidate the conclusion of Cyril and Dominique Labbé and show that quantitative lexicology does not offer any arguments in favour of Pierre Louÿs’ “intuitions”.