Violent Ideologies: An Investigation of the Relationship Between Linguistic Evaluative Patterns and Psychopathology in Three Types of Violent Offender

  • Madison Hunter

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Forensic linguistic and psychological assessments of language evidence each offer useful information about authors, but conclusions reached by one are often considered beyond the scope of the other. This research aims to bridge this gap with an approach that examines the relationship between evaluative language patterns and schemas underlying psychological traits and violent ideation. Schemas are beliefs that impact interpretation of and response to information. In linguistics, they are posited to influence language output, and in cognitive psychology, different schemas are argued to underlie different psychological
traits and symptoms and produce different evaluative/perceptual biases. This research merges perspectives, arguing that schemas underlying psychological traits and violent ideation can be identified by examining the stance-taking resources used to express the
beliefs influenced by them. Three studies are conducted to account for differences between violent offender types: one on serial murderers, one on a serial bomber, and one on perpetrators of mass violence. A comparison study of non-violent counterparts is conducted to help separate patterns attributable to psychopathology versus violent ideation. Written first-person accounts comprise the datasets because cognitive and phenomenological theories argue they are appropriate for examining the impact of psychopathology on experience. The Appraisal framework offers a means to track the resources authors employ to (1) convey their attitudes, (2) position themselves with respect to others, and (3) scale the intensity of their attitudes or commitment to their positions. Evidence is found of a link between stance-taking patterns and schemas underlying psychopathology. Similarities in
overarching stances between authors within and across chapters suggest schemas relating to general and act-specific violent ideation exist, but the findings indicate that an author’s psychopathology likely influences the distribution of resources used to convey them. Further research is needed, but the findings offer support for analyzing stance-taking resources to uncover possible psychological traits of authors.
Date of AwardSept 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTim Grant (Supervisor)


  • Appraisal Analysis
  • Systemic Functional Linguistics
  • cognitive theory and phenomenology
  • forensic linguistics
  • forensic text assessment

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