[Corpora-List] Corpus of threats?

Craig Pfeifer craig.pfeifer at gmail.com
Tue Nov 6 15:05:06 CET 2012


This talk is THIS FRIDAY at Georgetown University in Washington DC:

Friday, Nov 9, 3:30-5 in Poulton 230 - TAMMY GALES of Hofstra University

Interpersonal Stancetaking in Threatening Discourse: A Corpus and Discourse Analytic Approach

Abstract

*If you change the hours of service on*

*January 4,2004 I will turn D.C. into a ghost town*

*The powder on the letter is RICIN*

*have a nice day*

* *

*Fallen Angel*

This authentic threat asserts impending fatal injury. Because of the dangerous nature of threats, investigators must immediately ask: Is the intent real or a prank? Is it urgent? Is the threatener likely to act? With real lives on the line, using the linguistic information available to answer these questions in a timely and accurate manner is of great importance. Yet, because most scholarship aimed at revealing seriousness of intent and levels of danger has been based on behavioral characteristics, there is still a substantial lack of understanding of the discursive nature of threatening language and a lack of agreement, even, as to how threateners successfully threaten.

For this research, I created a corpus of 470 threat letters, collected over a period of one year at the Academy Group, a private behavioral analysis firm of former F.B.I. Supervisory Special Agents in Washington DC. Approaching these threats through the construct of ‘stance,’ which is an author’s culturally-organized feelings, attitudes, value judgments, or assessments about a recipient or proposition (Biber et al., 1999), I utilize a triangulation of methods to uncover patterns of epistemic and affective meaning within the genre.

First, through a survey of threatening language ideologies, I synthesize how various communities of practice (CoP) intuitively view stance in threats; our ideologies overwhelmingly construct a genre committed to violence and threatener control. Second, through a corpus-based analysis, I outline how grammatical markers of stance are actually distributed, uncovering an unexpected set of interpersonal functions associated with these markers—functions that ultimately weaken the stance of the threatener. This finding is contradictory to impressions about threatening language from the three CoP, which focus, rather, on functions that strengthen the threatener’s stance. Finally, I present the discourse analytic findings from two threat cases; one of which conforms to and enhances the form-based functions previously identified, while the other challenges these findings, demonstrating how language, when viewed from a functional perspective rather than from one strictly based on patterns of form, can reveal additional ways in which interpersonal meaning is conveyed in this socially-deviant genre. Ultimately, this multifaceted approach offers a more comprehensive understanding of the theoretical construct of stance and the performative nature of threatening.

Bio

Tammy Gales received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California, Davis and is currently an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Hofstra University. Her current research interests integrate corpus analysis and various forms of discourse analysis, especially Appraisal, to address topics of language and the law as they pertain to diversity in the U.S., to investigate forensic linguistic questions concerning the nature of threatening communications in contemporary American society, and to reveal language ideologies about the discourses within each genre.

______________ craig.pfeifer at gmail.com

On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 6:25 AM, Mcenery, Tony <a.mcenery at lancaster.ac.uk>wrote:


> Dear Tyler,
>
>
>
> written threats would be fairly easy to gather - blood curdling threats
> from terrorist groups, for example. However, if your interest is in spoken
> communication then there is much less available - or at least much less
> available where the density of the appearance fo threats makes the source
> of data useful. An obvious source of data with a good probability of a high
> density of threats (or at least reports of threats) would be police and
> court records, but in the modern era these are difficult to access, for
> obvious reasons. If you looked through something like the Old Bailey
> online, however, you could probably find plenty of reports of threatening
> language in the context of the court records.
>
>
>
> I think that language and violence/threat is a a good area to look at -
> the relationship of language to violence is often overlooked or is looked
> at simply in terms of violent lexis. I think that the pragmatics of threats
> and incitement to violence is a lot more subtle and powerful than a simple
> study of 'threatening language' would suggest. Best,
>
>
>
> Tony
>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* corpora-bounces at uib.no [corpora-bounces at uib.no] on behalf of
> Tyler Schnoebelen [tylerschnoebelen at hotmail.com]
> *Sent:* 01 November 2012 16:59
> *To:* Corpora at uib.no
> *Subject:* [Corpora-List] Corpus of threats?
>
> I was looking over the records of searches that led to my corpus blog (
> http://corplinguistics.wordpress.com) and came across:
>
>
>
> “death threat corpus linguistics”
>
>
>
> This actually is a pretty interesting idea for a corpus. Does anyone know
> about such a corpus or something similar that would help researchers
> investigate the language of threatening/intimidation?
>
>
>
> Vaguely law/criminal-related corpora suggestions are also welcomed. As
> would “flame war” corpora.
>
>
>
> Thanks!
>
>
>
> Tyler
>
>
>
> Tyler Schnoebelen
>
> http://www.stanford.edu/~tylers
>
> http://corplinguistics.wordpress.com
>
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