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Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note Analysis

Kurt Cobain’s Suicide

1.INTRODUCTION

One of the fields of macrolinguistics, forensic linguistics, is a recent and rapidly growing area of modern applied linguistics according to Gerald McMenamin. He (2002: 67) makes the definition of forensic linguistics as the scientific study of language as applied to forensic purposes and contexts. Another definition of the term forensic linguistics is brought by John Olsson (2008: 3) as the application of linguistics to legal questions and issues. So it can also be defined as the application of linguistic expertise to legal, judicial and criminal contexts.

Eva T. S. Sudjana and Nurul Fitri (2013) state that “Aspects of linguistics plays important role when it deals with legal texts such as suicide note.” (p.219). So with the help of Linguistics so many inferences can be taken form many texts. Forensic linguists deal with so many forensic text types (emergency calls, ransom demands and other threat texts, call center frauds, final death row statements, etc.) one of which is suicide notes. A suicide note is a text written by a person before committing suicide. In this study the suicide note of Kurt Cobain is handled. The adjectives of Kurt Cobain’s suicide note are taken into consideration and they will be analyzed in terms of positivity and negativity. It is assumed that a suicide note consists of wholly or mostly negative work and it is prepared in a negative mood. This study tries its best to analyze whether this conception is true or false.

In order to analyze the suicide note, forensic linguistics needs another linguistic field or fields to support the analysis, such as phonology, semantics, morphology pragmatics, syntax, discourse analysis etc. In this study the fields of semantics and pragmatics are made use of, because this study analyzes the adjectives semantically and for some of them pragmatics is needed, because the adjectives are not used in their dictionary meaning.

One of the micro fields of linguistics, semantics, study the meaning of words, phrases, sentences and ambiguities in texts. Forensic semantics study the meaning of words, phrases, sentences and ambiguities in criminal texts. McMenamin (2002:92) states “primary areas of research in forensic semantics are the interpretation of words, phrases, sentence, texts, ambiguity in text and laws, and interpretation of meaning in spoken discourse”.

Pragmatics also study the meaning of words, phrases, sentences and ambiguities in texts, but the main aim of pragmatics is that it studies the deeper meaning of words, phrases or sentences, it studies the implied meaning. In short, it can be said pragmatics deals with the meanings of texts that semantics cannot explain. In Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, there are adjectives that are used for the opposite meaning that is they are used metaphorically. So by means of pragmatics metaphorically used adjectives are analyzed. They are neither excluded, nor taken with their dictionary meanings, which would take the study in a wrong direction.

2.REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Eva T. S. Sudjana and Nurul Fitri carried out a practically similar study on 4th December, 2013, named “Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note Case: Forensic Linguistic Profiling Analysis”. In the study Kurt Cobain’s suicide note is analyzed in terms of genuineness of and also to figure out the motives of the subject related to suicide. Furthermore, the research tends to make the authorship profiling of Kurt Cobain based on the lexical items which contain negative meaning that are related to his psychology.

In our study, only adjectives are taken into consideration in terms of positivity, negativity and neutrality, in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. It is expected to find out whether there are mostly positive or negative adjectives.

3.RATIONALE

Research Questions

  • What type of adjectives did Kurt Cobain use in his suicide note in terms of positivity/negativity/neutrality?

  • What type of mood do these adjectives reflect?

4.METHOD AND DESIGN

Method

The suicide note of Kurt Cobain consists of 570 words. From these 570 words, adjectives are taken and then they are classified into 3 groups. Positive adjectives will be in one of the groups, negative adjectives will be in the other and the neutral ones are in the other group. After it is started to analyze the case, it is realized that there are also neutral adjectives, so because of this a third group, neutral adjectives are also taken. The number of the adjectives is taken into consideration in that which group has more adjectives and from the positive, negative and neutral adjectives the mood of Kurt Cobain before he committed suicide is expected to be revealed, in terms of his adjective choice and usage.

Limitation

This study is limited only with the adjectives. Another study similar to this could be carried out with another part of speech items like nouns. Because it is seen that both positive and negative nouns are also found in the suicide note of Kurt Cobain. For example; at the end of his note Kurt Cobain wrote “Peace, love, empathy.” which are nouns having positive meanings, in a suicide note.

5.DATA ANALYSIS

Here, the adjectives are shown colorful in order to be selected easily; the red ones are negative adjectives, the green ones are positive adjectives and the blue ones are neutral adjectives.

Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American musician and artist. He writes his suicide note to his imaginary friend, from his childhood, Boddah, who Cobain thinks is a perfect human.

Kurt Cobain Suicide Note

To Boddah

Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand.

All the warnings from the punk rock 101 courses over the years, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guity beyond words about these things.

For example when we’re back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins., it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any one of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage. I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do, God, believe me I do, but it’s not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re gone. I’m too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child.

On our last 3 tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation for all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music, but I still can’t get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone. There’s good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don’t you just enjoy it? I don’t know!

I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what i used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become.

I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much I guess.

Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I’m too much of an erratic, moody baby! I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Peace, love, empathy. Kurt Cobain

Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your alter. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me.

I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!

Kurt Cobain used totally 51 adjectives; 26 of them are negative, 17 positive and 8 neutral. The percentages are shown below. Here, the adjectives classified as positive, negative or neutral, according to their context meanings, so most of the time pragmatics is made use of.

Kurt Cobain used in his suicide note;

50.98% negative adjectives

33.33% positive adjectives

15.68% neutral adjectives

Kurt Cobain used mostly negative adjectives (26), but it can be interpreted as positive (17) and even the neutral ones (8) are not so few. Using mostly negative adjectives shows a negative mood, but he also addresses positive parts of his life, using positive adjectives.

6.SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION

As the study shows that, negative adjectives are the majority with 50%. But positive ones are not so few with 33%, as with the neutral ones 15%. There is not a big difference among the percentages. So it can be concluded that, in suicide notes mostly negative adjectives may be used, but positive ones and the neutral ones are also so many. All in all, the suicide note of Kurt Cobain is mostly composed of negatives adjectives. But positive and even neutral adjectives are also used and their number is not so few.

All in all, it can be seen that the suicide note of Kurt Cobain does not consist of only or fully negative adjectives. So it is encountered that all of the suicide notes does not necessarily have always negative meaning unlike the thoughts of most of the people. It is possible to see positive adjectives and so positive mood at suicide notes, and this is not unusual.

This study is significant in that only adjectives are chosen to study, so the adjectives are specifically analyzed, which is not done before.

7.APPENDIX

Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note

To Boddah

Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand.

All the warnings from the punk rock 101 courses over the years, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guity beyond words about these things.

For example when we’re back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins., it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any one of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage. I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do,God, believe me I do, but it’s not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re gone. I’m too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child.

On our last 3 tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation for all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music, but I still can’t get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone. There’s good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don’t you just enjoy it? I don’t know!

I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what i used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become.

I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much I guess.

Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I’m too much of an erratic, moody baby! I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Peace, love, empathy. Kurt Cobain

Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your alter. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me.

I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!

8.REFERENCES

McMenamin, G.R. (2002). Forensic Linguistics: Advances in Forensic Stylistics. New York: CRC Press.

Olsson, J. (2008). Forensic Linguistics. London: Continuum.

Sudjana Eva T. S., Fitri N. (2013). Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note Case: Forensic Linguistic Profiling Analysis. International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, (6), 217-227

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