Forensic Applications of Appraisal Theory and Genre to Threatening and Malicious Language

  • Andrew Patrick Reczek

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


Threats are usually understood to be expressions of malicious intent. However, owing to the sparseness of genre-specific analyses, this study has built on understanding threats more via their ‘discursive nature’ (Gales 2010, pp.1-2). With prior knowledge of how threateners effectively threaten, the study explores the nature of discursive threats through offenders’ intent, ethical positions, and influences to threaten.

Whichever way language analysis is achieved, psychology research has remained divisive and inconclusive about whether language can be an accurate indicator of behaviour or deception (Lord et al. 2008; Gales 2010). In this study appraisal theory is used as a linguistic tool and is adapted and enriched in a variety of ways.

The data for this study comes from police reports of domestic incidents which contain narratives of the incident and of offenders’ histories and the outcome of any threat. The thesis examines threats which were followed through and threats which resulted in no consequence.

Findings include that sadistic expression appeared more commonly with reports of a history of verbal abuse than in those where there was a history of physical abuse. The degree of threat was, however, generally higher where there was a history of physical

As a tool kit, appraisal theory was found to be potentially useful for situations where police may encounter threats where harms can unfold fleetingly. Appraisal is thus shown to be a tool that can provide insight into individuals’ intent or psychology through the
analysis of language.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTim Grant (Supervisor)

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