Language Use in the Jihadist Magazines Inspire and Azan

34 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2014 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014

See all articles by David Skillicorn

David Skillicorn

Queen's University

Edna Reid

James Madison University

Date Written: January 23, 2014


The language of influence or propaganda has been studied for a century but its predictions (simplification, deceptiveness, manipulation) can now be examined empirically using corpus analytics. Semantic models for intensity of belief and use of gamification as a strategy allow novel aspects of influence to be taken into account as well. We develop a semi-automated approach to assess the quality of the language of influence using both parts-of-speech and semantic models, and singular value decomposition as a middle ground between high-level abstract analysis and simple word counting.

We then apply this approach in a significant intelligence application: examining the use of the language of influence in the jihadist magazines Inspire and Azan. These magazines have attracted attention from intelligence organizations because of their avowed goal of motivating lone-wolf attacks in Western countries. Our approach enables us to address questions like: How good are the authors and editors of these magazines at producing influential language (and so how great is the impact of these magazines likely to be)? How does this change with time, and as a reaction to world events, and what does this tell us about competence and strategic goals? What is the impact of changes in authorship?

Keywords: language model, jihadi language, integrative complexity, gamification, deception, propaganda, corpus analytics

Suggested Citation

Skillicorn, David and Reid, Edna, Language Use in the Jihadist Magazines Inspire and Azan (January 23, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

David Skillicorn (Contact Author)

Queen's University ( email )

Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6

Edna Reid

James Madison University ( email )

Harrisonburg, VA 22807
United States

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