An Investigation of Suicide Notes: An ESP Genre Analysis

Atekah Abaalkhail


Suicide notes are considered important texts used to understand the suicidal act. Most studies focused on these notes psychologically to test hypothesis. Less research has been done discursively from the perspective of language studies. The purpose of this study is to investigate suicide notes, written by English speaking males and females between the years 1945-1954 and 1983-1984, from the perspective of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) genre approach. Specifically, the study examines the communicative purpose(s) and the rhetorical move/step structure in a corpus of 86 suicide notes. The findings suggest that suicide notes share common communicative purposes and rhetorical structure, and, therefore, constitute a genre from the ESP perspective. By examining the rhetorical move structure of suicide notes, this study proposes a model of suicide notes structure, the moves writers use and suggests that suicide notes do constitute a genre without a visible discourse community. The study adds to the existing body of knowledge in genre theory and makes a theoretically based contribution to the fields of genre studies, suicidology, and, potentially, forensic linguistics.


Suicide Notes, ESP, Genre, Move Analysis, Occluded Genre, Communicative Purpose

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