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The Linguistic Analysis of Suicide Notes

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Abstract

The study of text authenticity is, along with authorship attribution, one of the most important areas in forensic linguistics. In the case of suicide notes, these two matters seem to overlap. To determine the authenticity of a suicide note, it is necessary to establish whether linguistic features in the text confirm that the author, while writing the text, experienced a suicidal situation, leading him or her to express this intent.

This chapter presents the current state of research on the analysis of suicide notes. Specifically, it focuses on genre theory and its relevance for the examination of the suicide note and its generic features, as well as on the concept of idiolect. Furthermore, this chapter outlines the methodology for analysing the authenticity of suicide notes, with special attention to corpus linguistics and qualitative methods. At the core of the chapter, there is an analysis of the authenticity of a suicide note and a proposal for an analysis of a contested suicide note. The analysis is supplemented with questions addressed to the reader as food for thought.

Keywords

  • Communicative situation
  • Corpus
  • Forensic linguistics
  • Forged suicide note
  • Genre
  • Genuine suicide note
  • Idiolect
  • Rhetorical move
  • Suicide
  • Suicide note

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Fig. 11.1
Fig. 11.2
Fig. 11.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    All the calculations were made for the texts in the original Polish language version.

  2. 2.

    The texts are literal translations of the Polish texts.

  3. 3.

    Polish is a null-subject language, with rich subject agreement marking on the verb, so the subject pronoun is normally dropped in the clause.

  4. 4.

    Quotations marked with (1) were taken from the suicide note to everyone, whereas quotations marked with (2) were taken from the suicide note to the girlfriend.

  5. 5.

    All the calculations were made for the texts in the original Polish language version.

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Zaśko-Zielińska, M. (2022). The Linguistic Analysis of Suicide Notes. In: Guillén-Nieto, V., Stein, D. (eds) Language as Evidence. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84330-4_11

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