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

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Intent is a psychological quality that threat assessors view as a required step on a threatener’s pathway to action. Recognizing the presence of intent in threatening language is therefore crucial to determining whether a threat is credible. Nevertheless, a ‘lack of empirical guidance’ (p. 326) is available concerning how violent intent is expressed linguistically. Using the subsystem of judgment in Appraisal analysis, this study compares realized with non-realized ‘pledges to harm’, revealing occasionally counterintuitive patterns of stancetaking by both author types – for example, 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, 493 KB, PDF-document


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-171
Number of pages18
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number2
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographic note

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


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


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