Awni Etaywe

Thesis

Language as Evidence: A Discourse Semantic and Corpus Linguistic Approach to Examining Written Terrorist Threatening Communication

Supervisors

Summary

My research demonstrates linguist's responsibility to society by contributing to supporting the law enforcement and investigatory communities' intervention, specifically in counterterrorism and anti-radicalisation surveillance and investigative analysis. It belongs to the area of 'language as evidence', of forensic linguistics, and chiefly concerns with meaning examination/ ‘proof of understanding’ and authorship (style) ‘markedness’. Applying a discourse semantic and corpus linguistic analytical and descriptive framework, it identifies a set of distinctive lexicogrammatical features that mark author's language use and semantic orientation in four sub-corpora of texts.

It empirically investigates written texts with multiple interwoven security threats of: radicalised attitude, incitement to illegal acts and threatening to harm, that is, how they are semantically realised and what patterns terrorist group-specific texts reveal. It also adds to the literature by examining how author-ideal reader relationships and solidarity are negotiated within the social process of radicalisation. That said, this research provides a methodological contribution to the study of incitement and threatening utterances by adopting Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) methods. It proposes SFL tools for a new way of (interpersonal) meaning realisation in terrorist communication, illuminating the nuances in language that occur at the 'socio-semantic' level. Finally, it makes available a corpus of data that serves as a ground for reference set of stylistic features which can be used in future real-world authorship comparison analyses.