Pastries or Soaps?

A Stylometric Analysis of Leonarda Cianciulli’s Manuscript and Other Procedural Documents, with NooJ
  • Sonia LayEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 987)


This paper focuses on the analysis of Leonarda Cianciulli’s manuscript, an Italian serial killer better known as “The Soap-maker of Correggio”, who murdered three women (Faustina Setti, Francesca Soavi, Virginia Cacioppo) between 1939 and 1940 and, according to her confessions, turned their bodies into soap and teacakes. The authenticity of her biographical memoirs have been disputed for a long time: many scholars claim they were written by people that aimed at persuading the Court of Assize to limit the effects of the charge of murder, because she studied up to the elementary school and probably wasn’t able to write such a document of more than 700 pages. Data extracted from the manuscript were compared to other procedural documents, the interrogatories and the letters she wrote to her son while she was in the criminal asylum. This analysis is based on the methodology and the tools of Computational Linguistics, and has three main objectives:
  • to evaluate the assumptions of non-reliability of the manuscript, supported by different scholars and experts who examined the document;

  • to define a stylometric profile of the woman;

  • to detect the most significant traits of her “magical thinking”.

Specifically, the analysis was carried out with the NooJ software, and has led to the construction of local grammars able to mine different information about her rituals and obsessions, her murder weapons and methods, her writing style and most used expressions. The identification of stylistic markers plays an important role in forensic linguistics: preferences for certain grammatical constructions, contractions, spelling and punctuation, together with the presence of linguistic mistakes, can provide relevant indicators to make inferences about the author’s motivations and characterization. The analysis gives a detailed portrait of a tormented woman, whose real motives generate arguments and debates among scholars even today.


Forensic linguistics Cianciulli Deviant behavior Information extraction 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali Politiche e della ComunicazioneUniversità di SalernoFiscianoItaly

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