Pledging to harm: A linguistic appraisal analysis of judgement comparing realized and non-realized violent fantasies

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Intent is a psychological quality which threat assessors view as a required step on a threatener’s pathway to action (Meloy & Hoffmann, 2013). Recognizing the presence of intent in threatening language is therefore crucial to determining whether a threat is credible. Nevertheless, a “lack of empirical guidance” (Borum et al., 1999: 326) is available concerning how violent intent is expressed linguistically. Using the subsystem of judgement in Appraisal analysis (Martin & White, 2005), this study compares realized with non-realized ‘pledges to harm’ (Harmon, 2008), revealing occasionally counterintuitive patterns of stancetaking by both author types—e.g., that the non-realized texts are both prosodically more violent and more threatening while the realized pledges are more ethically nuanced—which may begin to shed light on which attitudinal markers reliably correlate with an author’s intention to do future harm


  • Pledging to harm

    Rights statement: © Sage 2018. The final publication is available via Sage at

    Accepted author manuscript, 488 KB, PDF-document


Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse and Society
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Dec 2018

Bibliographic note

© Sage 2018. The final publication is available via Sage at


  • Appraisal analysis, judgement, capacity, propriety, intent, violent fantasy, stance, pledge to harm, threat assessment, forensic linguistics, American English, United States


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